WEST SHORE VOICE NEWS 2017

 

FRONT PAGE BREAKING NEWS

News in support of successful living: business & economy, health & wellness, education, youth, the arts, politics, sustainability & social trends. Featuring news of the west side of Vancouver Island.

Click on other pages for deeper stories and local news:  BC & NATIONAL | VANCOUVER ISLAND (island-wide impact) | LANGFORD, COLWOOD, VIEW ROYAL & METCHOSIN | SOOKE |  JUAN de FUCAREGIONAL EVENTS


 

Sunday, January 21 ~ SOUTH VANCOUVER ISLAND. Extreme winds have caused extensive damage and multiple outages for BC Hydro customers in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island, says the utility on their website this morning.

At present, about 65,000 customers throughout the south coast and island areas are without power. at 9 am, BC Hydro said that it expects outages to increase until the winds decrease.

“Restoration efforts are being coordinated in all regions and restoration times will be provided once full damage assessments are complete.”

On Vancouver Island, as of 9 am this morning:
> Vancouver Island South – 22 outages: 14,951 customers without power
> Vancouver Island North – 32 outages: 11,990 customers without power

Hard hit with the most customers out of power are the Gulf Islands including Galiano, Mayne, Ganges, Pender and Saturna.

In Langford/View Royal 764 customers are without power in the Atkins/Millwoods/Strandlund area.

Other areas on the current list of outages: Central Saanich, North Saanich, Sidney, Victoria (Fairfield/James Bay 702 customers without power) and Oak Bay/Saanich (2,072 customers without power).

To report an outage, call 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376) or *HYDRO (*49376) on your mobile or report it online at www.bchydro.com


 

Saturday, January 20 ~ VANCOUVER. Premier, ministers depart for Asia to strengthen relationships, create good jobs in BC. Premier John Horgan departed today to Guangzhou, China, as part of a 10-day mission to China, South Korea and Japan to strengthen economic and cultural ties with three of BC’s largest trading partners, expand markets, and create good jobs for people throughout BC.

Premier Horgan will promote bilateral relationships between British Columbia and key government and business leaders. The Premier will be accompanied by Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology Bruce Ralston and Minister of State for Trade George Chow. Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare will participate in the China portion of the mission to foster tourism opportunities in support of the 2018 Canada-China Year of Tourism.

The agenda includes bilateral meetings to advance collaboration with BC’s sister provinces, Guangdong, China and Gyeonggi, Korea. Other meetings and events will focus on opening up investment and trade opportunities in key sectors, including tourism, low-carbon and clean technology, forestry, energy, mining, innovation and tech, agrifoods, seafood, and arts and culture.

China, Japan and South Korea are BC’s second-, third- and fourth-largest trading partners, respectively. Developing strong business relationships in priority markets around the world is a key strategy in government’s commitment to building a strong, sustainable economy.

Travel Itinerary: * Jan. 20 – Depart from Vancouver * Jan. 21 – Guangzhou, China * Jan. 23 – Beijing, China * Jan. 25 – Seoul, South Korea * Jan. 27 – Tokyo, Japan


 

Hwy 14 road improvements announcement January 19 by Premier John Horgan in Sooke, introduced by Sooke Mayor Maja Tait. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Friday, January 19 ~ SOOKE. Premier John Horgan today announced ‘a start’ for the process of improving the travel conditions on Highway 14 (Sooke Road). With a $10 million expenditure in the mix, Horgan’s announcement kicked off the first of multiple phases of safety, transit and congestion improvements for highway that serves as an essential commuter corridor for residents of Sooke, as well as tourists who contribute to economic development of the Sooke area.  Specifically that will be:

  • Three bus pullouts on both sides of Highway 14 at the West Shore Parkway, Laidlaw Road, and Harbourview Road
  • A bus queue jump lane at Jacklin Road
  • New safety signs at three locations (Kangaroo Road, Gillespie Road, and Parkland Road)
  • A slow-moving vehicle pullout eats of Muir Creek, between Sooke and French Beach
  • A new rest area at the Sombrio lookout
  • A new two-lane bridge on Gillespie Road (at Roche Cove), which is an important alternative route to Highway 14 (when vehicle accidents and other incidents on the main highway block normal through-traffic)
  • Intersections currently without lighting that will receive new LED lights are: Awsworth Rd, Humpback/Woodruff (including one at the bus stop), Manzer, Laidlaw, Parkland and Impala.
  • Intersections that will have new LED lights installed to augment current lighting are: Kangaroo, Connie, Gillespie, Glintz/Polymede, Ludlow, Goodridge (with upgrade to the fire signal), Harbourview, Saseenos, Woodland, Winnipeg, Saseenos Elementary School (4 additional lights including two directly over each side of the crosswalk), Sooke River/Lazzar/Park-and-Ride.

At the Hwy 14 improvements announcement in Sooke, January 19 (from left): Beecher Bay Chief Russ Chipps, Langford Councillor Lanny Seaton (back row), Langford Mayor Stew Young, and Langford CAO Darren Kiedyk. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Horgan has a longstanding association with ‘all things Sooke’ — not only as the MLA since 2005 for what is now the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding (including Sooke to Port Renfrew), but having spent a lot of recreational time in the area.

Langford Mayor Stew Young has long sought improvements to Highway 14, as a way to help connect the rugged seaside forested area of Sooke to the services and growth of Langford which is now the fastest-growing city in BC (other than Surrey in the Lower Mainland). For Young this announcement was a good start, in that his vision for the west shore has included better road accessibliity to Sooke for about 25 years now.

“It’s better to put money into infrastructure than into more studies,” Mayor Stew Young told West Shore Voice News during the roadside media announcement today.  Noting the housing affordability of Sooke and similarly Langford, Mayor Young said that better, safer travel on Highway 14 will help link the two communities together to build a great community and a greater economy. The scale is good here. It help businesses. As Sooke grows, you have to make sure your construction keeps up with that. I know there’s going to be more coming, there might be widening. Today we’re hearing that safety and lighting improvements are first.

Langford’s Mayor was glad to hear today’s announcement. “Give them a year or two and see how much funding they have for more. Economic development is important here in the west shore region,” said Stew Young.

BC Premier John Horgan (MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca) chatted with youth during the Hwy 14 road improvements announcement [West Shore Voice News photo]

At the podium with Premier Horgan was Sooke Mayor Maja Tait who said Sooke and the surrounding region is connected by this single highway. “Residents and politicians and alike have been asking for safety improvements for commuters, transit users, pedestrians and everyone else who relies on this.”

Tait said that young people and retirees are being attracted to Sooke as a growing community “with proximity to large urban centres that afford us access to diverse employment opportunities, health care, educational programs and the like”. She acknowledged that Sooke relies on Highway 14 “to connect us to the west shore and Victoria.”

Horgan says his government’s budget in February will include more announcements for improvements on Highway 14, more to do with actual work on the road itself (in addition to the lighting and public transit-related announcements made today).

Over 100 people showed up for the rainy-day announcement held at 1 pm at the Park-and-Ride across from Edward Milne Community School (EMCS) on Highway 14 at Lazzar Road. In addition to politicians (including members of Sooke council, Langford Council, and BC Transit) and Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staff, there were many active members of the Sooke community including business and education leaders.

Two youth from EMCS said the impact of road closures on Highway 14 when there are accidents has meant that teachers cannot sometimes get to the school, and that when fellow students are injured on the road it affects the entire school community.

 


Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz announcing rate hike on January 17, 2018.

Thursday, January 18 ~ NATIONAL. The Bank of Canada’s increase in their benchmark interest rate to 1.25% (from 1%) follows two increases of .25% that were implemented in summer/fall 2017.

The bank rate is usually moved upwards as a mechanism to control or contain an inflationary market. The new rate of 1.25% is the highest level in Canada since 2009.

As of Thursday, January 18, all five big banks (TD, Scotia, BMO, RBC and CIBC) now have the same prime lending rate of 3.45%. Prior to the Bank of Canada’s move, their rates were all 3.2%.

While job numbers were apparently strong in the latter part of 2017, that data appears not to have been fully explored for job quality (i.e. part time / full time / level of benefits) and may include a wave of seasonal hiring ahead of the Christmas retail season.

In the fall of 2017 — with the anticipated impact of the mortgage stress test that is now in place (as of January 1 2018) — there began a ‘rush on the bank’, if you will. People locked into low-rate and fixed-rate mortgages and/or buying properties at all. The lower end of the market was squeezed — fewer entry level buyers were qualifying, and owners of lower-end properties were challenged to find available buyers.

The level of household debt in Canada is at its highest level ever seen, sitting at 171.1% as of the 3rd Quarter. That includes mortgages, lines of credit and credit card debt.

So while “savers will benefit” (i.e. people who already have money set aside), most of the rest of the middle class, workers and consumers will be further hard pressed to maintain lines of credit and pay down mortgages and credit cards.


Thursday, January 18 ~ COASTAL BC. BC Ferries vessels and terminals will become a smoke-free environment as of January 22, 2018. This policy change was first announced last summer.

The coastal transportation provider says it is introducing a smoke-free environment to support the health and wellness of customers and employees.

The new policy applies to the smoking of tobacco and any other substance, including the use of e-cigarettes. All vessels and terminal properties will become smoke and vape-free environments, including the interior of all vehicles that are on BC Ferries property.

BC Ferries says it has received many requests from customers to offer a smoke-free environment.


Amazon has shortlisted 20 cities for its Thunderdome (second headquarters).

Thursday, January 18 ~ LANGFORD. Only one Canadian city is among the top 20 finalists in the highly sought-after prize of being the location for Amazon’s Thunderdome (its second headquarters or HQ2), and that’s Toronto.

Bids were received by Amazon from 238 cities across North America. Here in BC, a bid had been submitted by Vancouver and the growing City of Langford on Vancouver Island. In Alberta, Calgary had also shown interest by submitting a bid.

Of the other 19 cities on the shortlist, many are clustered on the eastern seaboard of the US or in America’s midland heartland, with only one on the west coast:• Atlanta, GA• Austin, TX• Boston, MA• Chicago, IL• Columbus, OH• Dallas, TX• Denver, CO• Indianapolis, IN• Los Angeles, CA• Miami, FL• Montgomery County, MD• Nashville, TN• Newark, NJ• New York City, NY• Northern Virginia, VA• Philadelphia, PA• Pittsburgh, PA• Raleigh, NC• Toronto, ON• Washington DC

It was one of Amazon’s goals to build its second headquarters some distance away from its original Seattle headquarters, which as a different shipping location would reduce distance and time for many deliveries. As well, the ‘elephant in the room’ is that Seattle is smack dab within the west coast earthquake zone.

Amazon has said it will work with each city to “dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate the company’s hiring plans as well as benefit its employees and the local community.”

The selected candidates will move to the next round of Amazon’s selection process, the company said today, January 18. Amazon says it will make a final decision on the site of its new headquarters this year.

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough — all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of economic development. “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”

Amazon provided little detail about how it picked the finalists for its second headquarters, which it is calling HQ2, other than to say it based it choices on the criteria it laid out for the search earlier.

As reported by the New York Times, the H2Q bidding process has also attracted critics. They quote Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit organization that serves as an advocate for local businesses, who said that local politicians were enhancing Amazon’s image just as the company’s market power was under growing scrutiny from groups like her own. “As these cities woo and grovel, they are basically communicating this idea that we should want Amazon to be bigger and more powerful in our economy,” Ms. Mitchell said.

Other critics have said the magnitude of Amazon in any given city would displace smaller businesses in part by drawing away talent to the mega-Amazon. Whatever city gets the prized HQ2 contract will probably see an additional burden on municipal taxpayers for things like more roads and other infrastructure and require a larger system of services including housing, retail and medical. Likely appreciating this, Amazon did specify in the bid criteria that potential locations should have a population of at least 1 million, so that knock-on impacts could be absorbed.


 

Presentation January 9 by SD62 Principal of International Students Programs, Laura Schwertfeger [West Shore Voice News photo]

Monday, January 15 ~ WEST SHORE. The International Student Program is a significant revenue-generator for Sooke School District 62 (SD62). Students come to study for one or more years of public education in the west shore, paying for tuition and accommodation.

In a presentation January 9 by SD62 Principal of International Students Programs, Laura Schwertfeger (at an Education Committee of the Whole meeting) addressed trustees, staff, and stakeholder reps about international students, ELL/English Language Learner students (formerly ESL) who stay as  part of the community, and overall supports for welcoming.

Schwertfeger — who most recently has travelled to Switzerland to promote the west shore as a progressive place to get an English-speaking education — said students are presently in SD62 schools from about 20 countries. Most of the students attending in SD62 are from China (about 30-40%), Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil. There are also students visiting from Vietnam, Russia, Austria, and Australia. The greatest number of International Students are in Langford-area schools “which speaks to housing availability”, said Schwertfeger.

There are 40 visiting students at Belmont Secondary, 20 at Ruth King Elementary, and several at Spencer Middle School. SD62 aims to balance the numbers from a range of originating countries. Most International Students come for language development but also from English-speaking countries like Australia for a short-term cultural experience. Vietnamese students are often here long-term, for 2 to 4 years. The number of Russian students has increased recently and more are coming from Iran.

The program team has visited about 30 different countries. Agents and partners to do most of the presentations, while SD62 staff personally attend areas of “significant potential”. In Switzerland “the appetite to come to Canada is significant compared to going to the US,” said Schwertfeger.

Last fall about 1,600 participants attended her presentations in Switzerland over two days.  Another aspect of the International Program is “moving to an intercultural mindset” with cultural diversity supports offered to teachers, staff, students and community.

SD62 Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull says there are 280 full-time-equivalent International Students in SD62 this year.  Tuition per student is $12,500 per academic year for all school levels.


 

Monday, January 15 ~ WEST SHORE. Opportunity for Parent & Community Input (SD62 – Langford, Colwood Sooke).

While discussion of the Strategic Plan was kept tight and short at SD62’s Education Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday evening, January 9, the document itself is fairly extensive, as will be the impact of its implementation throughout schools in Langford, Colwood and Sooke over the next several years.

Parents of students attending SD62 schools will have received an email in recent weeks, asking for their input. Busy families — if they haven’t already — might want to at least read the Strategic Plan document to be up to speed with the ideas, whether or not they have the time or inclination to send an email with comments.

You can see and download the SD62 Strategic Plan at http://www.sd62.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2017/12/Strategic-Plan-Version-1-as-at-December-2017.pdf

Comments may be emailed to info@sd62.bc.ca and the deadline is now end of the day Thursday, January 18 (extended from January 12). The board could approve the Strategic Plan as soon as January 23.

The current SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge will be retiring at the end of July 2018, with a new (yet to be hired) Superintendent filling his much-accomplished shoes. The current board is comprised mostly of long-term trustees, some of whom may not run again in October 2018.

The Strategic Plan is in part a legacy document to try and ensure that the many accomplishments of the 2014-2018 board in particular will be preserved into the future.

SD62 is the fastest-growing school district in BC, with about 500 more students expected to register into schools in Langford, Colwood and Sooke each year during the next five years.

Summary SD62 STRATEGIC PLAN
> Vision: honour student voice and choice through engaging, purposeful and experiential learning in a safe and respectful community
> Values: Relationships, Choice,
> Respect, Integrity, Trust, Safety
> Mission: to develop informed, literate and resilient citizens and sustain a safe, respectful and responsive learning community.
> Goals: Learning | Engagement | Growth


 

Highway 14 (Sooke Road) westbound to Sooke. {West Shore Voice News photo – January 2018]

Sunday, January 14 ~ SOOKE.  BC Hydro will be doing some roadside work on Highway 14 (Sooke Road) this week, which they anticipate will cause some traffic delays.

As Highway 14 is pretty much the only way in and out of Sooke, the pre-advisory is helpful to commuters who rely on the provincial highway. Work will be done 9 am to 3 pm on two days:

  • On January 16 it is pole work that would include equipment replacement in the 5500/5600-block stretch (Goodridge Road to Laidlaw Road),  expect delays 9am to 3pm.
  • On January 18 the work is a pole replacement. Expect delays just east of Kangaroo Road, 9am to 3pm.

Highway 14 (Sooke Road) eastbound toward Langford. [West Shore Voice News photo – January 2018]

Traffic through the work zones will be reduced to single lane, alternating traffic, says the utility’s Vancouver Island – Sunshine Coast Community Relations office.

These are just two portions of the poorly lit, poorly sight-lined provincial Hwy 14 where vehicle accidents frequently occur.

A few months ago, Premier John Horgan (MLA for the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding through which Sooke Road intersects) sent back a traffic plan to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for considerable revision because while it addressed bus transit and overall driver awareness issues, it lacked solutions for real problems that face motorists on Highway 14.


H3N2 is prevalent in the 2017-2018 flu season.

Saturday, January 13 ~ FLU SEASON UPDATE. The number of people getting influenza infections continues to rise across Canada, with 15,572 laboratory-confirmed cases for the season as of January 6. That’s almost double the first-week-of-January stats for 2017, as reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

The majority of cases continue to be the H3N2 type of Influenza A, a strain that tends to cause more severe illness, particularly among the elderly and children.

Usually most infections with the B strain of flu happen at a later phase in the flu season, but this year the B strain is concurrent with A strain. The B strain is appearing with about 20-times more detections so far this season than for the same time period in the last seven years, says PHAC.

Overall this year, people age 65+ are the most affected by flu. There have been 54 reported flu deaths in Canada this 2017-2018 flu season (of those, five were children). There have been 1,850 reported hospitalizations (68% of those are seniors).

People who get the flu are asked to stay home (to avoid spreading the illness), and to wash their hands frequently. If you have to sneeze, do so into a tissue or into the sleeve of your shirt or jacket.


 

BC Premier John Horgan and his brother Pat Horgan.

Thursday, January 11 ~ VICTORIA. BC Premier John Horgan is “very much in family mode this week”, upon the passing of his oldest brother, Pat Horgan on January 6.

The Premier’s office announced the news today, January 11: “It’s with great sadness that we announce that Pat Horgan, Premier John Horgan’s brother, passed away on Saturday, January, 6, 2018. Pat passed away from cancer at the age of 71. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends.”

A service will be held in Pat’s home community of Port McNeill on February 10, 2018. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the BC Cancer Agency in support of lung cancer research. Messages to the family can be sent by email to: shirpath04@gmail.com

According to the Premier’s staff, John Horgan, 58, looked up to brother Pat Horgan as a father figure. John Horgan has another brother and a sister. His mom passed away about nine years ago. John Horgan was born in Victoria, the son of Pat and Alice Horgan, who had four children. Horgan has been heard to say that he has no memories of his father, who died when Horgan was quite young. But based on stories from his family, he apparently takes a lot after his dad.

John Horgan has been the MLA for what is now the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding (including Sooke), since 2005.


Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (in Vancouver, Aug 2017)

Wednesday, January 10 ~ BC. Three-term Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced today that he will not be seeking reelection in the October 2018 municipal election.

Robertson has left a strong footprint with his work in climate change, transportation and housing concerns in Canada’s western-most major metropolis. He was the only Canadian mayor invited to discuss climate change with the Pope in Vatican City in July 2015.

Having held the position of mayor for 10 years, Robertson today described his decision as ‘intensely personal’ and says he will not continue in politics.  “An important part of leadership is to know when to make space for new voices and leaders,” he said from Vancouver City Hall today.

In a lengthy statement posted on Facebook, Robertson included that Vancouver has led the national effort to fight for health-focused drug policy and saving lives in the opioid overdose crisis.

In response to this news today, BC Premier John Horgan released the following statement about Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s decision to not seek re-election in 2018: “I have known Gregor Robertson for many years. He was a trusted colleague when we worked together as MLAs in Victoria, and he is a valued partner as we work with local governments to make life better for people. From transit and transportation, to housing and homelessness, Gregor has been a passionate advocate for people. He can be proud of the work he and council have done to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world. On behalf of British Columbians, I want to thank Gregor for his many years of public service and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted today: “Thanks, @MayorGregor, for your friendship, partnership, and years of service & work for people in Vancouver. Wishing you all the best.”


CRD Board Meeting January 10, 2018 (screenshot)

Wednesday, January 10 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. The outlying area of Juan de Fuca west of Sooke may yet get their piped water through the Capital Regional District (CRD). 

The CRD Board today January 10 approved a revised draft Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). Approval of the revised draft follows a successful mediation process with the BC Government (from February 2017 until January 5, 2018), to resolve disputed provisions related to managing growth, water servicing, climate action, food systems and transportation.

CRD Board Chair Steve Price (Mayor of Sidney) was in favour of referring the RGS document to municipal councils for acceptance. “The revisions seek to address the interests of all the parties, and set the stage for how the region will approach future growth,” said Price.

Adoption of the RGS bylaw requires all municipalities within the capital region to approve the growth strategy. Mediation was triggered in February 2017 when seven municipalities (Saanich, Central Saanich, North Saanich, View Royal, Highlands, Colwood and Esquimalt) refused to accept the RGS. Provincial legislation provides specific dispute resolution mechanisms to settle an RGS that does not receive unanimous municipal acceptance.

“The mediation process was a very positive experience” says Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks. “I hope that all councils will support the mediation compromise that came out of the process so we can put this dispute behind us.” He further explained that OCPs in Juan de Fuca must be consistent with the RGS, and that once the RGS is finally approved that OCP documents in the JdFEA can finally be brought up to date.

Director Hicks said there is a backlog of work and that Juan de Fuca constituents need zoning for development. Ahead of today’s vote at the CRD board table, Hicks appealed to fellow directors to endorse the mediated RGS “to give some neighbouring residents in the Juan de Fuca to connect to CRD water, and give all JDF residents the opportunity to pass their OCPs and be an equal partner in the CRD region”.

The solutions generated by mediation focus on seven topic areas: vision / population projections, economic development, climate action, transportation, food systems, growth management and water servicing. Solutions included revised policy provisions, updated mapping and population projections, updated content related to food systems and climate action, and terminology edits.

The next step in the process is a 60-day referral of the document to municipal councils for acceptance. If all councils accept the revised document, the Board may adopt the RGS as bylaw.

The RGS bylaw will update the existing growth strategy, adopted back in 2003. The RGS guides decisions on regional issues, provides population and employment projections to the year 2038 and updates policy regarding water servicing, growth management, the environment and infrastructure, housing and community, transportation and economic development.

Director Alice Finall (Mayor of North Saanich) at today’s CRD board meeting noted that 2016 census figures were not yet included in the RGS but that waiting for that amendment would delay the RGS approval process. As Director Barb Desjardins (Mayor of Esquimalt, and former CRD Chair) pointed out, that detail can be brought up to speed after the RGS might be passed.

The 2018 RGS also provides new policy regarding food systems and climate action. Visit www.crd.bc.ca/sustainability for more information.


Mike Hicks, Director, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area [West Shore Voice News File Photo – July 2017]

Friday, January 5 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. Fought for long and hard by Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks, recently-concluded mediation by the BC Government sees the extension of CRD piped water services made available to residents of JdF areas, including Otter Point to Port Renfrew (East Sooke and Malahat are also in JdFEA).

Until the mediation that concluded Jan 5, seven of the 13 municipalities within the CRD (Saanich, Central Saanich, North Saanich, View Royal, Highlands, Colwood and Esquimalt) had rejected the idea of piped-water extension by rejecting the overall Regional Growth Strategy (RGS).

Over the past year or two, Hicks had the continued support of Langford as well as the neighbouring Sooke municipality. Hicks’ pitch to Premier John Horgan (MLA for Langford-JdF) helped move things along, with Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson then extending the mediation deadline from Nov 30/17 to January 15.

CRD Directors will vote on the mediated solution at their board meeting on Wednesday January 10. If approved by the CRD Board, the RGS goes back to municipal councils for final approval.

The RGS is used as an overall guiding tool for regional development including transportation, land use, water, waste management, environmental services, arts and recreation, hospitals, planning strategies, and protective services.


 

Vehicle crash on Hwy 14 (Sooke Road) on Fri Dec 29. [Photo source: Facebook]

Wednesday, January 3 ~ SOOKE.  RCMP have identified a Sooke man as the person killed in a two-vehicle crash last Friday, December 29 in the 5900-block of Sooke Road (Provincial Highway 14).

Police said Drew Ripley, 48 — driver of a grey Dodge Caravan heading westbound on Sooke Road — was pronounced dead at the scene. A woman driving an SUV heading eastbound was taken to hospital, but later released. Police said yesterday that no charges will be laid.

RCMP, Sooke Fire Rescue and the BC Ambulance Service were called to the two-vehicle collision at about 4:20 pm on Sooke Road, between Parkland and Woodlands Roads. The BC Coroner also arrived on scene shortly after that.

The woman who had been driving the eastbound green Jeep SUV had to be extricated by Sooke Fire Rescue using their hydraulic equipment.

“The investigation is ongoing. However, it appears from initial witness reports that the Dodge Caravan was travelling westbound when it crossed over the double solid line, colliding with the SUV travelling in the eastbound lane,” said RCMP Cpl. Joe Holmes in a press release.

Road conditions were wet and the sky was almost dark, near dusk. There were no passengers in either vehicle.

The collision caused major traffic delays, however, it occurred in an area where traffic could be diverted around the closed portion of the Highway. The vehicles were removed around 10:15 pm on the night of the crash but the road remained closed as BC Hydro and road crews cleaned up the area.


Wednesday, January 3 ~ VICTORIA. The BC Government is raising the 2018 homeowner grant threshold to $1.65 million, ensuring the same percentage of British Columbia homes are below the threshold as in 2017.  That percentage was about 91% in 2017.

The increase is one very firm indicator of how much the value of housing has increased in the past year (in 2017 the threshold was $1.6 million, which jumped from the level of $1.2 million in 2016).

Eligible homeowners must apply for the homeowner grant each year. To be eligible for a grant, the home must be used as the owner’s principal residence. The homeowner grant is automatically calculated on a homeowner’s property tax notice.

The homeowner grant amounts are: $570 for the basic homeowner grant | $770 if the home is located in a northern or rural area | Up to $845 for homeowners who are 65 years or older, or the homeowner is a person with a disability.  | Up to $1,045 for homeowners who are 65 years or older, or the homeowner is a person with a disability if the home is in a northern or rural area.

Some low-income owners, such as seniors or people with disabilities, can apply to supplement their homeowner grant if it has been reduced or eliminated because of the high assessed value of their principal residence. Homeowners may also be eligible for property tax deferment if they are 55 years or older, or are financially supporting a dependent child.

Homeowner grants will return an estimated $825 million to British Columbians this year. The Province reimburses municipalities for the full cost of the homeowner grant to make sure municipal revenues are not affected. In the majority of BC communities, almost every home is valued below the threshold.

Home Owner Grants: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/reduce/home-owner-grant
To apply for low-income grant supplement: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/reduce/home-owner-grant/senior/low-income
Qualification for property tax deferment: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/defer-taxes


 

Tuesday, January 2 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. Overall in Greater Victoria the continuing demand for housing in this region retained strong interest in 2017 with those who can afford to own a home. In figures released by the Greater Victoria Real Estate Board today, 2017 saw fewer property sales (8,944 this year compared to 10,622 last year), but prices were higher at this year-end than in December 2016.

In Greater Victoria the overall actual average sale price of a single-family home went up about $50,000 in one year (Dec 2016 to Dec 2017). The HPI (data-adjusted figure based on selected criteria like transportation and proximity to schools and services) went up more than that — an increase of $67,200 between December 2016 and December 2017 which implies an upward trend perhaps for 2018 as well.

WEST SHORE FOCUS: Comparing the 2017 year-end to one year ago, actual house sale average prices were virtually unchanged in Langford ($684,132 this year compared to $685,942 in December last year) although the HPI (data-adjusted prices) jumped $84,000 during 2017.

Colwood prices skyrocketed, with an actual sales average increase of $142,565 in that same one-year period (house sales in December 2017 averaged $728,373 in Colwood compared to $585,808 in December last year).

In Sooke, the overall sale price of homes in one year dropped about $42,000 (from $527,854 in December last year to $485,718 in December this year) though both are still around half a million dollars to live in a fairly remote semi-rural area.

The availability of different types of housing probably contributes to the differences. Langford is consistently building a range of housing types including single-family, townhomes and some condos (as well as rental apartments and affordable housing buildings) while Colwood is seeing a lot of new construction in the higher end of single family homes. In Sooke it’s possible much of the best stock already sold in the very active year that was 2016.

BROADER ISSUES: The new Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) mortgage rules (as of January 1, 2018) that include a ‘stress test’ to determine if a homeowner’s income can withstand interest rate increases, caused a bit of a pre-2018 rush in housing sales in November 2017 in particular. While the government says it hopes to see the housing market cool a bit (and they say they want to protect buyers from over-reaching their ability), the dream of homeownership is increasingly unavailable to many people in Canada — especially in the inflated Victoria/Vancouver markets.

The underlying problem is a precarious job market in which fewer stable long-term jobs are available compared to in decades past. And underlying that scenario is a financial system that has for about 30 years favoured the winners to keep on winning, pushing affordability in all respects further out of the reach of average workers and much of the middle class.

In Canada overall, the crash of 2008 was followed by about nine years of stagnant economic growth. That was compounded in BC by a government whose policies to privatize, use crown corporations as cash-cows, and save at all costs for a rainy day left little fresh energy or opportunity in the economic system for small business and workers alike.

After the second world war, Canada started CMHC and created the housing market as a vehicle for personal and family investment as well as government tax revenue. Now very much an investment tool for those who can afford it, the housing financial system in Canada has completely lost sight of the main purpose of real estate which is to put a roof over people’s heads.

Pushing previous low-end homeowners back into the rental market (and keeping more people renting because they can’t afford to enter the market) is an additional ‘unintended consequence’ of rising house prices. This makes rental availability virtually nil for that new group of renters as well as those who have always rented (which includes most of the Millennials).

All of this is a crisis waiting to burst. It has yet to be seen whether actions by the federal and BC government (with options like affordable housing, as well as the ‘cooling’ of the homebuyer market) will be able to moderate the looming crisis of ‘where are people going to live’? And if people can’t afford to buy high-end or even ‘regular’ homes, the construction industry will have to shift fairly rapidly to building other types of housing to maintain their profitability.


High-density housing in Langford, BC. [West Shore Voice News photo – Aug 2017]

Tuesday, January 2, 2018 ~ BC. Feedback on proposed technical changes to the next edition of BC’s building, plumbing and fire codes can be submitted online up to February 28, 2018 at this BC government link (access open since Dec 12): https://www2.gov.bc.ca/…/building-c…/the-codes/public-review

In general, over the years, standards in the BC Building Code have become increasingly strident or strict. In many cases this has added to the cost of new housing construction and therefore the ticket price of homes new homes available for sale.

While builders and those in and around the construction industry are usually the main providers of feedback, there is room for consumers to have their say.

Building Code topics for input include Accessibility, Area Calculation of Exposing Building Face, Asbestos, Energy Efficiency Standards, Exit Signs, Factory-Constructed Buildings, Fenestration (windows), Heritage Buildings, Mid-Rise Combustible Construction, Outdoor Design Conditions and Air Cleaning, Radon, Stairs (dimensions of tapered treads, handrails in curved stairs, no spiral stairs).
> BC Plumbing Code topics for input include Asbestos, and Plumbing Fixtures.
> BC Fire Code topics for input include fire systems, emergency lighting, smoke alarms and use of elevators.

The current BC Building, Plumbing and Fire Codes came into effect December 20, 2012.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the beach at Sidney Spit {Aug 2017 – photo by Mary P Brooke – West Shore Voice News]

Sunday, December 31 ~ OTTAWA. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement to mark the new year, 2018: “Happy New Year, Canada!

“This past year, we marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and looked back on the remarkable achievements Canadians have made throughout our history. We recommitted ourselves to our shared values, and we celebrated the diversity that makes us strong. Millions of people – of every background, origin, culture, and faith – have come together to make Canada the diverse, open, and prosperous country it is today.

“The 150th anniversary of Confederation was also a chance to reflect on the moments Canada has not lived up to its ideals. Indigenous Peoples, and many Canadians, have faced prejudice and oppression in our history. In the New Year and the years to come, we must continue to work to right these wrongs, and make sure everyone has a real and fair shot at success.

“In 2017, we made real progress toward these goals. Our government took action to build a better future for families across Canada – from taking steps to strengthen the Canada Child Benefit and investing in early learning and child care, to creating new opportunities for young people, to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and protecting the rights of LGBTQ2 communities. We made gender equality a priority at home and abroad, and took strong steps to fight climate change and protect our environment, for generations to come. We launched Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy and lowered the small business tax rate – and together, we continued to create jobs, grow our economy, and strengthen the middle class.

“But we still have a lot of hard work left to do. In 2018, let’s continue to celebrate the values that unite us – openness, compassion, equality, and inclusion. Let’s move forward together, put those values into practice, and work to build a better future for all of us.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sophie and I wish you a wonderful night and all the best in 2018.”


BC Premier John Horgan, Dec 2017 [West Shore Voice News photo]

Sunday, December 31 ~ VICTORIA.  Premier John Horgan has issued the following statement in recognition of New Year’s Day 2018:

“The new year brings new beginnings and new opportunities. It is a chance to look back at the challenges we have faced, and to resolve ourselves to overcome obstacles in the year to come.

“From addressing housing affordability to tackling the opioid crisis, and the ongoing recovery from last year’s devastating wildfires, we have no shortage of important work to do in the coming year.

“On New Year’s Day we are given the opportunity to think about where we are and where we have to go. It is a day to consider the path ahead and to set our minds to meet our goals.

“In 2018, we will be working hard to create a strong, sustainable economy that benefits everyone, to make life more affordable for families and to improve the services people rely on.

“On behalf of the government of British Columbia, I wish you a safe, healthy and happy new year with many more to come.”


 

Vehicle crash on Hwy 14 (Sooke Road) on Fri Dec 29. [Photo source: Facebook]

Sunday, December 31. The BC Coroner has confirmed that a man in his 40’s was killed in the MVI on Sooke Rd on Friday night, Dec 29. RCMP have not yet released any further official information. A roadside memorial was already in place Dec 30 in that poorly lit section of Highway 14 just east of Saseenos Elementary School.

PREVIOUS POST: Friday, December 29 ~ SOOKE. Highway 14 (Sooke Road) is closed this evening in both directions at Parkland Rd in Sooke due to a serious vehicle collision that occurred around 6:34 pm PST.

Traffic both eastbound and westbound on Sooke Road is blocked. However, a short local-area detour is available via Parkland Road to Blythwood Road to Woodlands Road. The provincial highway is estimated to reopen around 11 pm.

Reportedly the incident was a head-on collision involving two vehicles, with reportedly at least one fatality.

Road surfaces are wet today due to heavy rainfall most of the day.

Rescue crews from both Sooke Fire Dept and Langford Fire Dept have attended the crash.   More to come.


 

Sunday, December 30 ~ WEST SIDE of VANCOUVER ISLAND. As you ring in the new year tomorrow night, those who are politically inclined and civic minded are already well aware that 2018 is a big municipal election year in BC.

Elections BC says that the municipal and school board election period starts January 1, 2018, even though election day isn’t until October 20. That’s a lot of months of preparation for exposure to the community!

Candidates for Mayor, Council, and school trustee seats across BC may submit nomination papers starting September 4. The official campaign period begins September 22.

West Shore Voice News will in particular follow the campaign action all year in Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, Sooke, Juan de Fuca and View Royal (and school district 62 on the west shore) as candidates shuffle into place.

In our nearly 10 years of covering political and community news of this region, West Shore Voice News (formerly Sooke Voice News) election coverage has proven to get broad readership and good advertising traction.

This is the first municipal/trustee election after a 4-year term. Previously in BC, municipal and school board terms were for three years.


Vehicle crash on Hwy 14 (Sooke Road) on Fri Dec 29. [Photo source: Facebook]

Friday, December 29 ~ SOOKE. Highway 14 (Sooke Road) is closed this evening in both directions at Parkland Rd in Sooke due to a serious vehicle collision that occurred around 6:34 pm PST.

Traffic both eastbound and westbound on Sooke Road is blocked. However, a short local-area detour is available via Parkland Road to Blythwood Road to Woodlands Road. The provincial highway is estimated to reopen around 11 pm.

Reportedly the incident was a head-on collision involving two vehicles, with reportedly at least one fatality.

Road surfaces are wet today due to heavy rainfall most of the day.

Rescue crews from both Sooke Fire Dept and Langford Fire Dept have attended the crash.   More to come.


 

Friday, December 29 ~ BC.  Baby names in BC for 2017 are today’s hot topic. Final statistics will not be available until later in 2018, but stats from BC Vital Statistics (January 1 to December 15) are showing the trends.

The top baby girl name is Olivia (same as in 2016), with Emma in second place.  For the past six years, Olivia and Emma have been the top two girls’ names. So far, the other names for girls in the top five remain Sophia, Charlotte and Ava.

So far it looks like the top baby boy name in BC this year is Benjamin, followed by Liam, Logan and Lucas.  It appears Ethan and Oliver might not make it into the top five this year; possibly being replaced by Logan and James.

There were 45,399 babies born in BC in 2016 – 22,188 girls (49%) and 23,210 boys (51%). In 2016, Lucas was the number 1 boys’ name, followed by Benjamin, Ethan, Oliver and Liam. Olivia was the top girls’ name in 2016, followed by Emma, Charlotte, Ava and Sophia. List of the most popular baby names in BC for 2016


Drinking alcohol in any private or commercial vehicle is illegal in BC, whether the vehicle is moving or not.

Thursday, December 28 ~ VICTORIA.  The BC government is reminding party-goers who intend to use for-hire vehicles such as limousines and “party buses” to familiarize themselves with the laws and regulations that govern these vehicles, to plan ahead for a safe ride home.

Passengers should be reminded that drinking alcohol in any private or commercial vehicle is illegal in BC, whether the vehicle is moving or not.

As New Year’s Eve approaches, consumers are encouraged to look for companies that advertise strict policies related to consuming alcohol in vehicles. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has distributed over 800 decals to operators for display in their vehicles, reminding passengers that consuming alcohol in any vehicle is illegal in BC.

Operators using any size vehicles with limo-style or party bus perimeter seating must have a special authorization licence. These licences state where vehicles can operate and limit fleet size. Passengers should look for a passenger-transportation licence plate and decal on the front of the vehicle, or if there is no plate, ask to see a temporary operating permit, before boarding a bus.

Police will be monitoring limousines and party buses during the holiday season. Operators that allow the consumption of alcohol in their vehicles will be penalized, and passengers in these vehicles also have a responsibility to adhere to the Province’s liquor laws. Operators who do not comply with liquor laws run the risk of losing their licence, and minors in possession of alcohol are subject to a $230 fine.

Make sure the company you are considering is properly licensed in BC by looking it up on the Licensee Report on the Passenger Transportation Branch’s Registry at: www.th.gov.bc.ca/rpt/registry.htm


 

Two sisters: Chloe Berry, 6, and Aubrey Berry, 4. [web-source photo]

Wednesday, December 27 ~ SOUTH ISLAND. Two children were found dead in an apartment building on Beach Drive in Oak Bay on Christmas Day, Monday December 25. The girls — age 4 and 6 — were found dead and their father found injured with self-inflicted wounds.

The sisters were identified as Chloe Berry, 6, and Aubrey Berry, 4. The father is Andrew Berry, and the estranged wife is Sarah Cotton. They first met when both employed at BC Ferries.

Reportedly there was a custody dispute and support payments from Berry to Cotton may have been in arrears.

RCMP say they are not looking for other suspects, therefore no risk to public safety.

The RCMP’s Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit was called in to investigate. They were on scene again the next day, searching the apartment. Police expect to be on the scene for the rest of the week.

On Saturday, December 30 there will be a candlelight vigil for the loss of these two young girls on Christmas Day by homicide in Oak Bay. The outdoor event will be held at Willows Beach on Beach Drive, 7 pm. Dress warmly, bring a candle. Statement from Mayor and Council of Oak Bay.


 

The BC Medical Services Plan billings still continue.

Wednesday, December 27 ~ VICTORIA. Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums in BC will be cut by 50% effective January 1, 2018. The BC Government says this marks “an important step toward improving fairness for all British Columbians”.

“MSP premiums are unfair and place a significant burden on British Columbians,” said BC Finance Minister Carole James in a Ministry of Finance news release. “I’m proud that we are moving away from these regressive fees and creating a more equitable system by eliminating MSP premiums entirely within four years.”

In addition to the 50% rate cut, the income threshold for full exemption from MSP premiums under the premium assistance program will also be raised by $2,000 (up to $26,000), as of January 1, 2018.

In November 2017, the Minister of Finance established a task force to examine the best approach to replacing the revenue from eliminating MSP premiums. The task force is comprised of respected experts in economics, law and public policy, to advise on the best path to eliminating MSP premiums. Government will receive its report by March 31, 2018.

Enhancements to premium assistance, effective Jan. 1, 2018, mean an individual earning up to $26,000 per year will pay no premiums.  A couple earning up to $29,000 per year will pay no premiums.  Senior couples earning up to $35,000 per year will pay no premiums.

A single parent with two children earning up to $32,000 per year will pay no premiums. A couple with two children earning up to $35,000 per year will pay no premiums.

In all other Canadian provinces the process of collecting medical system fees is done through various methods within the tax system. In BC, even though premiums will now be reduced (an idea introduced under the former BC Liberals due to public pressure), the billing system for overdue payments continues to be punitive, including putting a lien on a person’s property or garnishing their wages, if payment is not received all of which further erodes the person’s credit rating and damaging their future ability to recover a difficult financial situation.

The MSP Task Force is still receiving public input up to 4 pm on January 31, 2018 — to submit your ideas visit: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/msptaskforce/

Eligibility for premium assistance can be determined using the online eligibility calculator: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/msp/eligibilitycalculator/


 

Blood donation service at the Sooke Legion (April 2016). File Photo: West Shore Voice News

Monday, December 25 ~ NATIONAL. Last week, Canadian Blood Services was calling on eligible blood donors to help fill 35,000 appointments by January 6 to ensure that Canadian patients continue to have access to the blood and blood products they need over the holidays.

The next blood donor clinics coming up in the west shore area are on Monday January 15 at CFB Esquimalt, 1575 Lyall St (9 am to 4 pm); on Monday January 22 at Church of the Advent, 510 Mount View Ave, Colwood (12 noon to 7 pm); and on Monday, February 12 at the Sooke Legion, 6726 Eustace Rd (11:30 am to 6:30 pm).

New and existing donors are welcome and walk-ins are usually accepted. Some of the usually temporary impacts of giving blood include bruising, continued bleeding, dizziness, light-headedness and nausea. After giving blood, donors are offered juice and a cookie and are monitored for a while on site before they leave.

“The holiday period always presents challenges for us as we work to ensure we have enough blood and blood products to meet patients’ needs,” says Rick Prinzen, Canadian Blood Services’ Chief Supply Chain Officer. “We know that Canadians are busy with travel and activities over the holidays, and we hope that they will make time to save a life and give blood. Canadian patients’ lives depend on them.”

Platelets pose a particularly difficult challenge. Patients with serious bleeding or those undergoing cancer treatments rely on platelet donations, but with a shelf life of only seven days, the need for platelets is pressing and ongoing.

Canadian Blood Services manages the national supply of blood, blood products and stem cells, and related services for all the provinces and territories (excluding Quebec). Their integrated, pan-Canadian service delivery model includes leading an interprovincial system for organ donation and transplantation.


Queen Elizabeth II delivering her 2017 Christmas Day message [BBC screenshot]

Monday, December 25 ~ COMMONWEALTH.  Calling Christmas a ‘festival of the home’, Queen Elizabeth delivered her traditional Christmas message on British television today December 25, also seen live-streamed online.

In addition to the usual themes of thanking those who serve their country and community, she broke with tradition by welcoming a new member of the Royal Family ahead of the marriage — that would be American actress Meghan Markle, now engaged to Prince Harry … their engagement photo was included among those of the family in the televised scene.

The queen referred to herself in the third person as a young woman who had used advanced technology to deliver her first Christmas message (black-and-white TV, at the time). Although she gave an understated nod to her husband Prince Philip for his years of service, she gave no indication of her timeline ‘on the job’, having always said it would be her lifelong commitment to be Queen.

A photo of young Prince George (3rd in line to the throne) was stationed the most prominently to the right of the Queen, with a photo of young Princess Charlotte alongside.

Here is the full text of the speech:

“Sixty years ago today, a young woman spoke about the speed of technological change as she presented the first television broadcast of its kind. She described the moment as a landmark:

“Television has made it possible for many of you to see me in your homes on Christmas Day. My own family often gather round to watch television as they are at this moment, and that is how I imagine you now.”

Six decades on, the presenter has ‘evolved’ somewhat, as has the technology she described. Back then, who could have imagined that people would one day be watching this on laptops and mobile phones – as some of you are today. But I’m also struck by something that hasn’t changed. That, whatever the technology, many of you will be watching this at home.

We think of our homes as places of warmth, familiarity and love; of shared stories and memories, which is perhaps why at this time of year so many return to where they grew up. There is a timeless simplicity to the pull of home.

For many, the idea of “home” reaches beyond a physical building – to a home town or city. This Christmas, I think of London and Manchester, whose powerful identities shone through over the past twelve months in the face of appalling attacks. In Manchester, those targeted included children who had gone to see their favourite singer. A few days after the bombing, I had the privilege of meeting some of the young survivors and their parents.

I describe that hospital visit as a “privilege” because the patients I met were an example to us all, showing extraordinary bravery and resilience. Indeed, many of those who survived the attack came together just days later for a benefit concert. It was a powerful reclaiming of the ground, and of the city those young people call home.

We expect our homes to be a place of safety – “sanctuary” even – which makes it all the more shocking when the comfort they provide is shattered. A few weeks ago, The Prince of Wales visited the Caribbean in the aftermath of hurricanes that destroyed entire communities. And here in London, who can forget the sheer awfulness of the Grenfell Tower fire?

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who died and those who lost so much; and we are indebted to members of the emergency services who risked their own lives, this past year, saving others. Many of them, of course, will not be at home today because they are working, to protect us.

Reflecting on these events makes me grateful for the blessings of home and family, and in particular for 70 years of marriage. I don’t know that anyone had invented the term “platinum” for a 70 wedding anniversary when I was born. You weren’t expected to be around that long. Even Prince Philip has decided it’s time to slow down a little – having, as he economically put it, “done his bit”. But I know his support and unique sense of humour will remain as strong as ever, as we enjoy spending time this Christmas with our family and look forward to welcoming new members into it next year.

In 2018 I will open my home to a different type of family: the leaders of the fifty-two nations of the Commonwealth, as they gather in the UK for a summit. The Commonwealth has an inspiring way of bringing people together, be it through the Commonwealth Games – which begin in a few months’ time on Australia’s Gold Coast – or through bodies like the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra & Choir: a reminder of how truly vibrant this international family is.

Today we celebrate Christmas, which itself is sometimes described as a festival of the home. Families travel long distances to be together. Volunteers and charities, as well as many churches, arrange meals for the homeless and those who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. We remember the birth of Jesus Christ whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution; and yet it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad.

Whatever your own experiences this year; wherever and however you are watching, I wish you a peaceful and very happy Christmas.”


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered his 2017 Christmas Message on Dec 24.

Sunday, December 24 ~ OTTAWA. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today issued the following statement on Christmas: “Merry Christmas, Canada!

“In 2017, people across Canada gave us much reason to be proud, and showed us the strength in our diversity. Canadians are neighbours helping neighbours, sharing warmth, compassion, and generosity—not just at Christmas, but all year round.

“For Christians around the world, this season is a time to celebrate Jesus Christ and his message of compassion. For all of us, it is a chance to come together to give thanks for everything that unites us.

“As the 150th anniversary of Confederation draws to a close, all of us have a role to play in shaping our world for the better. In the New Year, and throughout the years to come, let’s commit to making a difference. Whether by lending a hand to a neighbour, or volunteering for a cause we believe in, let’s give generously, and live out the values that bring us together.

“Let’s also reach out and listen—to those next door, across the aisle, and at the dinner table. Building a better world starts where we work and live, in our communities, and at home.

“During the holidays, I also ask you take a moment to remember our brave servicewomen and men, and their families. They make extraordinary sacrifices to keep us safe.

“From our family to yours, Hadrien, Ella-Grace, Xavier, Sophie, and I wish you joy, health, love, and peace this holiday season. Merry Christmas.”


BC Premier John Horgan, Dec 2017 [West Shore Voice News photo]

Sunday, December 24 ~ VICTORIA. Premier John Horgan has released the following statement in celebration of Christmas:

“Dec. 25 is a special day for Christians around the world. It is a day set aside to recognize the birth of their Saviour, Jesus Christ, and to give thanks to God for the gift of salvation.

“For people of many backgrounds, Christmas is an opportunity for families to gather together and celebrate warmth, good food and good company.

“It offers us a break from the worries of the everyday world and a chance to focus on things that really matter – the people we love and the communities we care about.

“It is also a time to reach out to people in need, and work in a spirit of generosity to help and support each other.

“We hope that British Columbians throughout the province have a safe and joyful Christmas season.

“On behalf of the Government of British Columbia, Merry Christmas.”

To see Premier John Horgan’s interview in West Shore Voice News, click here: December 15, 2017 issue


Amazon will deliver parcels right into your home.

Friday, December 22 ~ EDITORIAL ~ by Mary P Brooke: “How far will you go? Reality check in the digital age”

Apparently you can order something online from Amazon and have it shipped to your door, and right inside your house if you want. If you want?

It made national news this week that someone hacked the delivery-into-your-home system. Really, you’re kidding — people didn’t think that digital thugs weren’t licking their chops to get their hands on this one? Once a delivery was digitally confirmed, stuff would be promptly stolen off the parcel recipient’s front step or even from inside their home by blocking the cameras.

Shakin’ my head here. How far will people trust the new technology? There is virtually no privacy left for anyone anymore. Much of the younger generation doesn’t even really understand what privacy means, they’ve never known it: cameras in most public places for safety and security, multi-layered digital ID cards, and voluntary release of scads of personal details onto Facebook and other social media. So it’s easy to see how parcels inside the door ‘to alleviate your worry about theft’ could naturally arrive in the ‘ok zone’.

At Christmas we reach for the stars in our minds and for the beauty in our hearts. And so it should be. But it’s always been common sense, planning for the inevitable, and tough critical thinking that has saved people in the end.

By all means dream big, you must. Make real the visions of your mind and desires of your soul. It’s what we’re here for. But while expanding your horizons, remember the basics of human nature, including the dark side. And don’t be surprised if you get fooled because you sought convenience or a short cut.


 

EMCS Principal Pat Swinburnson will retire Dec 22, 2017 [West Shore Voice News photo]

Thursday, December 21 ~ SOOKE. Friday December 22 will be Patrick Swinburnson’s last day on the job as the principal at EMCS.

It will also be his last day with SD62 and in his public education system career … 36 years! Retired!

“I have loved the opportunity to have my own school and to try to make a difference. As principal, you can set the direction and tone of a school, and if you do it well and set off on the right path, lots of good things can happen,” Principal Swinburnson told West Shore Voice News this week.

See a full feature article exploring the highlights of Principal Pat Swinburnson’s impact at Edward Milne Community School — in the December 22, 2017 issue of West Shore Voice News, page 3.


 

Santa visiting in pediatrics at Victoria General Hospital [Island Health file photo]

Wednesday, December 20 ~ VICTORIA AREA. Santa will be visiting at Victoria General Hospital (VGH) on Thursday, December 21. “He will step in to make the holidays a little brighter for kids who can’t be home for Christmas,” says Island Health.

Helijet was to bring Santa to VGH on Tuesday but snow grounded him in Vancouver. This time Santa will arrive by ground travel. Island Health thanks Helijet for still making sure that little patients receive a teddy bear from Santa.

Santa will visit all of the children in pediatrics at VGH – at their bedside. “We have 25 beds for children and often siblings come to see Santa on this special day too,” says Island Health spokesperson Meribeth Burton.


Old forest growth cleared on land owned by T-Sou-ke Nation, for future commercial development. [West Shore Voice News photo – Dec 18, 2017]

Tuesday, December 19 ~ SOOKE.  Big changes to the Sooke landscape! 
Regular commuters often feel they have ‘arrived’ back in Sooke when heading westbound home they see that tall stand of old trees along Sooke Road just east of Edward Milne Community School.
So it kinda takes your breath away to see the proud old trees having been cleared away this week. For future land development.
 
We hear there will be a Tim Horton’s coffee shop and a gas station on the land there on Edward Milne Road as owned by T-Souke Nation.
 

Reportedly a future Tim Horton’s and a gas station will be built here next to the EMCS high school [West Shore Voice News photo – Dec 18, 2017]

That will significantly impact the livelihood of little coffee shops in Sooke town centre, as well as the busy little gas-fillup trade of Chevron and PetroCan stations in town centre.
 
For years, teens and others in the community have frequently wished for a Tim Horton’s to come to town. It’s always been a matter of economics to bring a large franchise operation to a small town.
 
More to come on this breaking news story.

Tuesday, December 19 ~ WEST SHORE. Snow and freezing rain have impacted customers across Vancouver Island, says BC Hydro. “All available resources are out working to restore power as quickly as possible but difficult conditions and extensive damage mean that some customers may experience longer outage durations,” it was stated on the BC Hydro website.

As usual, :individual restoration times may vary and will be provided once full damage assessments are completed. The safety of the public and our crews remains our top priority. Thank you for your patience,” said BC Hydro.

In the Sooke area, as of 1:15 pm there are about 350 people without power west of Sooke, with about 20 BC Hydro customer addresses affected in areas outside of town centre (including Idlemore, 5100-5200 block, and Cedar Park Place.

Outages in Colwood, Langford and Highlands since early-to-mid morning are affecting about 3,000 BC Hydro customers still as of 1:15 pm today.


 

Tuesday, December 19 ~ WEST SHORE. Snow and freezing rain have impacted customers across Vancouver Island, says BC Hydro. “All available resources are out working to restore power as quickly as possible but difficult conditions and extensive damage mean that some customers may experience longer outage durations,” it was stated on the BC Hydro website.

As usual, :individual restoration times may vary and will be provided once full damage assessments are completed. The safety of the public and our crews remains our top priority. Thank you for your patience,” said BC Hydro.

Outages in Colwood, Langford and Highlands since early-to-mid morning are affecting about 3,000 BC Hydro customers still as of 1:15 pm today.

In the Sooke area, as of 1:15 pm there are about 350 people without power west of Sooke, with about 20 BC Hydro customer addresses affected in areas outside of town centre (including Idlemore, 5100-5200 block, and Cedar Park Place


 

The Westhills view of snowy roads and hills today, Dec 19. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Tuesday, December 19 ~ WEST SHORE. It’s a snow day! Schools are closed for instruction in the west shore area (SD62) including in Langford, Colwood and Sooke.  However, the buildings are open and staff are in the schools. Updates for tomorrow (Dec 20) will be posted on Twitter @SD62_Sooke

For general driving conditions, MAINROAD SOUTH ISLAND says: Drive with care today. Winter driving conditions. Expect snow, slush and slippery conditions. Use winter tires and be prepared to chain up, if needed. Please be aware of snow plows and snow clearing operations. Updates on Twitter: #DriveSafe

In Langford, the CITY of LANGFORD ENGINEERING said this morning: The City of Langford is asking all traffic to please avoid steep slope areas as we work to clear our roads. In particular please avoid Bear Mountain Parkway. Road clearing priorities mimic most other municipalities – we are clearing major collector roads, bus routes and steep slopes first. Please be patient as we make our way to the smaller local roads.  If you do not have to go out, please remain at home. Visibility coming in from the Highlands is very challenging for any drivers coming in from the District of Highlands, several abandoned vehicles Millstream Road at Millstream Lake Road and in the downhill lanes southbound Millstream Road approaching Millstream Lake Road. Snowfall is much more significant in the Highlands and in Langford at the higher elevations.

Busy Millstream commercial intersection in Langford.

As of 1 pm today, December 19, the City of Langford reports: “There are several power outages in the City right now including in the Millstream Corridor (Costco and Millstream Village). This is affecting our signal lights because the back up batteries typically last 2 to 4 hours and with Hydro crews swamped our signal lights are going down. We are likely going to send traffic control to the north side of the Highway to help out in the Millstream corridor.”

There are seven City of Langford snow plows out on the roads. One is dedicated for clearing on Bear Mountain Parkway.

The weather is warming slightly so there is now some pooling and minor flooding. “In these instances we typically go out and proactively clear catch basins so we are sending our staff out as we speak to do that all over the City in the major corridors,” says Michelle Mahovlich, Director of Engineering, City of Langford.

“Residents are also asked to clear their catch basins and sidewalks. The temperature will drop over night so we need to minimize slip/fall hazards as well as contain any flooding,” says Mahovlich.


Sharing the limelight at the new schools announcement in Langford Dec 18 (from left): SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge; City of Langford Mayor Stew Young; SD62 Chair Ravi Parmar; and BC Minister of Education Rob Fleming. [Photo: Mary P Brooke ~ West Shore Voice News]

Monday, December 18 ~ LANGFORD. The fastest-growing community in BC will be getting two new schools, it was announced by BC Minister of Education Rob Fleming today in Langford. 

The Sooke School District (SD62) which serves the communities of Langford, Colwood, Sooke, Highlands, Metchosin and Juan de Fuca will receive $23.3 million toward the purchase of 6.5 hectares (16 acres) of land from within the Westhills development.

The site for a middle school and elementary school at the corner of West Shore Parkway and Constellation Avenue will tie together a string of educational and recreational facilities in the area, said Langford Mayor Stew Young, including Belmont Secondary School (where the announcement was made) and nearby public library, arena, bowling alley and sports stadium. Ball fields will be developed as part of the overall project, says Young. He points out the cooperative use of the recreational facilities by students during the day and by the community in non-school hours.

In this his last year of his education career, SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge was pleased to host the announcement today, in the commons area at Belmont — the largest school in SD62. He noted that Education Minister Rob Fleming is the former education critic “who knows every rock in the education system”, as a benefit in particular to the fastest-growing area.

A main impetus for gearing up for new schools is to reduce the number of portables currently in use in the overloaded west shore area of SD62. There are presently 13 portables at Dunsmuir Middle School in Colwood and seven at Spencer Middle School in Langford. “We hope to eliminate those in a few short years,” said Cambridge in his remarks at the podium.

Since the availability of new education funding this year, about 3,700 teachers have been hired to help support about 5,000 more students in the community. “We’ve been poaching teachers to come teach in BC,” said Cambridge at the podium. He spoke highly of the SD62 board as being “unique in BC for putting children and learning spaces first”.

Langford Mayor Stew Young called the schools announcement “an early Christmas present”. The mayor who is proactive for community growth and development says “everybody is now taking notice of Langford”. He says that people are excited to be in Langford “because we’re actually providing what is needed by our community”.

SD62 Chair Ravi Parmar addressed the room of about 80 people, thanking the BC Government for “supporting our vision and capital plan” with funding for purchase of the 16 acres in Westhills. Parmar — himself a graduate of Belmont Secondary — said “when this government gets money they spend it”.

Building a new middle school will be SD62’s first priority on the site, followed by an elementary school to address the shortage of K to 5 spaces brought about by an influx of young families to the west shore. About 1,800 more students are expected to arrive in the SD62 catchment area in the next five years.

Present for the announcement by Minister Fleming in the bright spacious Belmont commons room were SD62 trustees and staff; City of Langford Mayor, Council and senior staff; Westhills owners, executive and staff; Education Ministry staff; Belmont principal Ray Miller; STA president Ian Johnson; CUPE reps; parent association reps; members of the business community; and students in study mode upon whom this little event came as a surprise!


Sunday, December 17 ~ Randall Garrison’s seasonal constituency open house will be held on Monday, December 18 from 4 to 6 pm at the Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke constituency office, 2904 Tillicum Rd.  Here is Garrison’s seasonal letter to constituents:

“As the year comes to an end and the holiday season begins, I would like to extend my warmest wishes to all residents of Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke and their families.

It is an honour to represent you. In the New Year, I am committed to continuing to work for a fairer and greener Canada. As your Member of Parliament, I know that many of you are struggling with the housing crisis, affordability issues, and that you want our environment to be better protected.

I will continue to advocate for improvements to housing, Pharmacare, childcare, and affordability. I will also continue to stand with the majority of my constituents in their opposition to Kinder Morgan.

I hope that your holiday season is joyful and that the New Year brings you success and happiness.”


SD62 Trustees at their December 12 board meeting (from left): Margot Swinburnson, Bob Phillips (Vice-Chair), Neil Poirier, Denise Riley, Dianna Seaton,
Ravi Parmar (Chair). Absent: Wendy Hobbs. [Photo: West Shore Voice News]

Friday, December 15 ~ WEST SHORE.  At their December 12 board meeting ahead of Christmas break, the Sooke School District (SD62) trustees held their annual election, returning Ravi Parmar as Chair and shifting to Bob Phillips (a former SD62 Chair) as Vice-Chair. Dianna Seaton was thanked for her last couple of years of service as Vice-Chair.

Superintendent Jim Cambridge reported on his most recent school visits (Royal Bay, Saseenos and John Muir) and his involvement in the south island partnership with Camosun College as well as his participation in a committee about technical funding for all schools in BC for 2018-2019. He said some “land acquisition meetings with municipalities” had been held.

Treasurer Harold Cull introduced the process of developing the 2018-2019 strategic plan, to which public input will be invited in January. SD62 promotes a goal of providing education that produces “creative, cultural and social thinkers with the capacity to be global citizens”.

A full day of orientation for new teachers in SD62 will be held soon — two sessions ahead of Christmas break, and two more in January. With so many new teachers in the growing school system, this is an expansion over the usual one meeting of previous years.  New educators will be provided with various supports, says SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge. That includes information from the human resources, information technology and finance departments as well as various classroom supports, and “stories about successes in the past”.

SD62 executive staff after the December 12 board meeting (from left): Dave Strange (Asst Supt – Sooke schools), Harold Cull (Secretary-Treasurer), Jim Cambridge (Superintendent), Stephanie Hedley-Smith (Asst Supt – Langford schools), Paul Block (Asst Supt – Colwood schools), Dan Haley (Exec Director Human Resources). [Photo: West Shore Voice News]

SD62 Vice-Chair Bob Phillips pondered aloud at the Dec 12 board meeting whether there is any research on retaining new teachers. “Thirty percent say bye-bye after the first year,” said Phillips.

BC Education Minister Rob Fleming is scheduled to make an announcement “that supports west shore students”, coming up at Belmont Secondary School in Langford on Monday, December 18. The SD62 school board has in recent months pitched for provincial funds to build new schools in  this, the province’s fastest-growing school district. There are presently three SD62 high schools: Belmont in Langford, Royal Bay in Colwood, and EMCS in Sooke.


Donation of $10,000 to the Goldstream Food Bank, December 2017 (from left): Ron Coutre, president, Westshore Developers Assoc; Gayle Ireland, president, Goldstream Food Bank; City of Langford Mayor Stew Young. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Wednesday, December 13 ~ LANGFORD. A big cheque was delivered to the Goldstream Food Bank in Langford today.  The generous $10,000 donation from the Westshore Developers Association and the Langford Economic Development Commission (EDC) was announced last week, and today under bright sunny skies the official presentation was made.

Receiving the ceremonial cheque on behalf of the Goldstream Food Bank was the organization’s long-time President and Christmas Hamper Fund chair Gayle Ireland. Making the presentation was Ron Coutre, president, Westshore Developers Association and City of Langford Mayor Stew Young on behalf of the Langford EDC.

The busy food bank on Station Road in Langford will process 650 to 700 hampers to individuals and families in need over five days ahead of Christmas. In addition to lots of non-perishable food items and fresh produce, each hamper includes a gift card that can be used for a turkey, ham or other entree for Christmas, says Ireland. Handing out the hampers will be members of the Langford Fire Department, the Coast Guard, and other volunteers. “Everything will be loaded into vehicles for the people receiving the hampers,” says Ireland, clearly proud of the work of the volunteers.

“This $10,000 donation is so generous,” said the food bank president. Ireland explained that it essentially turns into $20,000 worth of food because of discounts given to the Goldstream Food Bank. “And we’re a financially healthy organization because we save for a rainy day.” She reminded everyone that no one gets paid to operate the food bank.

“Doing this was an easy decision,” said Coutre, who said at a meeting of the developers and economic development committee that they all wanted to give back.  Stew Young was enthusiastic about reporting success and goodwill: “Everybody’s doing well and it’s a great time to this to happen. Especially in Langford’s 25th year since incorporation, everybody’s on board to do this.” With Coutre piping in: “Especially at this time of year.”

This $10,000 donation was the largest of a collection of donations made by the developers and the City this holiday season. $3,000 was donated to the Langford Legion, with $1,000 to Another Brick in Nepal’s earthquake relief, $1,000 to Santa’s Anonymous, $1,000 to the Children’s Health Foundation, and $1,000 to the Victoria Conservatory of Music.


 

Announcing Site C on December 11, 2017 at the BC Parliament Buildings: Premier John Horgan with Environment Minister George Heyman and Energy & Mines Minister Michelle Mungall. [Photo: West Shore Voice News]

Monday, December 11 ~ VICTORIA.  Today December 11, 2017, the BC government has committed to completing construction of the Site C hydroelectric dam. The cost of the project on the Peace River near Fort St John in northern BC is now estimated at $10.7 billion (up from the original 2014 estimate of $8.775 billion by the previous government).

Site C will provide 1,100 megawatts (MW) of capacity, and produce about 5,100 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity each year – enough energy to power the equivalent of about 450,000 homes per year in BC.

In making the announcement, Premier John Horgan stated that while Site C should never have been started, the project has been pushed past the point of no return over the past few years. To cancel would have meant asking British Columbians to take on almost $4 billion in debt with nothing in return for the people of the province and, even worse, with a high risk of cuts to services and projects families count on.  Horgan reiterated his campaign promise to work hard to help keep life affordable for British Columbians.

However, the electricity load (demand) forecast used to underlie the decision to continue with Site C includes a realistic and responsible recognition of greater electrification in BC homes and industries in the future, especially as carbon emission reduction is a socioeconomic and political goal. The forecast by Deloitte as commissioned by the former government was said to have not incorporated any enhanced electrification of the economy.

Much of the increased future demand is likely to be required by the time Site C is completed and its power comes onstream in 2024. However, today the government said there will be surplus at first, and it will be sold to create revenues. The remaining shortfall between costs and revenues will be made up by electricity consumers (aka ratepayers).

The government has announced a Site C turnaround plan to contain costs, provide enhanced project oversight, and expand benefits to people and communities. Government says it will be putting in place enhanced oversight to ensure final costs are at or below $10.7 billion.

If the Site C project had been cancelled, losses would have meant insufficient funds for the things the BC NDP promised to BC voters in the 2017 campaign including more schools, hospitals and highways as well as expanded child care support. Cancellation would have produced an immediate rate hike of 12% on BC consumers all at once in 2020 without any benefit other than servicing debts and cancellation obligations.

In his public announcement today in the Library Rotunda at the BC Parliament Buildings in Victoria, Premier Horgan delivered “with a heavy heart” his decision to proceed with the Site C hydroelectric project.  He was flanked by Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman and Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall.

In a way, he had no choice but to give the green light to Site C. It was the goal and intention of the previous BC Liberal government to get the project past the point of no return (notably for contracts with workers, businesses and some First Nations), and they succeeded. The only reason to have started the project in the first place is to keep up with electricity demand into the future, but for years even that premise has been debated.

Not only does the continuation of the project present a long-term financial commitment including continual electricity rate increases for everyone in BC, it presents a quagmire of political challenges for the BC NDP government. Many groups who fought hard against Site C — including environmental, food sustainability and indigenous — feel they are on the losing end of this decision. And the BC Greens (with three MLAs who hold the balance of power in the current NDP-led minority government) are saying they feel betrayed. All of this sets up a myriad of immediate tensions and possibly some political brick walls in the future (including that the NDP caucus was divided on the issue, and that Energy Minister Michelle Mungall could face tensions in her constituency at the next provincial election).

A media briefing ahead of Horgan’s announcement began with this: “After review by BCUC, meeting with Treaty 8 First Nations, advice from independent experts and lengthy deliberation, Cabinet has made the difficult decision to complete Site C construction.”

Right out of the gate the presentation showed that hydro rates have been “rising significantly” since 2003. In 2014, a 5-year package of rate hikes would have seen rates were go up 28.5%; four of the past five years saw hefty increases loaded on the backs of consumers – notably 9% in the first year (followed by 6%, 4% and 3.5% this year); for 2018 the BC NDP government has issued a reprieve on the previously approved 3% increase.

With Site C going ahead, increases for electricity usage will occur year after year – up about 30% over 10 years (2019 to 2028). The government says hydro rates in BC are still relatively low compared to other provinces and cities in Canada and North America. Highly industrialized areas like Ontario and California have among the highest rates. Quebec has the lowest.

So-called ‘new power’ (from Site C) will cost $60/MWh to produce, compared to $32/MWh from the present generation system. The elephant in the room is the cost of energy production having been privatized under the Gordon Campbell BC Liberals back in the early 2000s — private companies that produce power and feed it into the grid are costing BC Hydro $100/MWh. And the share of supply by Independent Power Producers (IPP) is growing, which continues to push up the cost of electricity for British Columbians.

Studies apparently show that where the sources of power are varied in a jurisdiction – including hydro, fossil fuel, solar and wind, and nuclear, that the cost of power to produce power is somewhat less strident where hydro takes the lead.

The Site C decision was a complex equation, which Horgan said today was the most difficult in his 30 years in public service and politics. He knows all too well who he needs to please, and who he has disappointed. Included in the decision by Horgan and his cabinet was that shareholders who have invested in the expansion of electricity in BC will expect a good return on investment. If shareholders are spooked, BC’s bond rating could go down and that would affect many other aspects of the provincial budget.

Horgan said in his announcement today that BC Hydro had been “raided” by the previous government in order to produce a balanced BC budget. Part of cleaning up the mismanagement of BC Hydro was to appoint a new Chair. In one of his first actions as the new Premier, in mid-July Kenneth Peterson was appointed to replace Brad Bennett who was one of BC Liberal Leader Christy Clark’s election campaign advisers and president of real estate investment firm McIntosh Properties) and a few more directors considered more qualified will still be appointed, it was stated today by government.

To “lessen the burden” on BC Hydro and on British Columbians, Horgan announced some mitigating actions such as creating a food security fund to ensure we’re increase the productivity of agricultural land, and making it more viable to farm in the Peace and across BC. Reopening standing offer so indigenous people can build clean renewable energy and sell it back into the grid.  More training opportunities for local businesses and workers (much better than the 49 apprentices we have in place today). And a new oversight committee to make sure that the current budget is met in the next number of years.

Horgan said he and his colleagues made the Site C decision upon finding themselves in a situation where they had to accept realities, “not as we wish it to be”.  Horgan said: “It’s not the project we would have favoured, and not the project we would have started. But we’re three years in. It must be completed to meet the objectives our government has set.” He said the costs can be recovered “over a long period of time by the sale of electricity” which of course includes rate increases for consumers.

To those who Horgan expects will be disappointed by the government’s decision today on Site C, he said today: “I respect the strength of your convictions. I share your determination to protect BC farmland.  Decisions must be done in tandem with indigenous peoples but those decisions have passed (as negotiated by the previous government).”

Knowing he was disappointing ‘family and friends, Horgan said that “proceeding is the best way forward” but the decision was not an easy one: “We do it with a heavy heart.  But we have to focus on the future and on delivering for people.” ~ WSV

TECHNICAL and TIMELINE BACKGROUND: The Site C Clean Energy Project (Site C) will be a third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeast BC. Site C will provide 1,100 megawatts (MW) of capacity, and produce about 5,100 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity each year – enough energy to power the equivalent of about 450,000 homes per year in BC. The Site C project received environmental approvals from the federal and provincial governments in October 2014, then got the green light from the Government of BC in December 2014.  Construction of the project started in summer 2015 and will be completed in 2024. After a review of Site C by the British Columbia Utilities Commission in the fall of 2017, the B.C. Government chose to continue construction on the project. Site C will be a source of clean, reliable and affordable electricity for more than 100 years.


 

Sunday, December 10 ~ VICTORIA (posted at 6 pm).  Premier John Horgan is ready to announce his decision about whether or not to proceed with construction of the Site C hydroelectric project. He will make the announcement in Victoria tomorrow, Monday December 11.

Update later Sunday evening (posted at 11:30 pm): For some reason, longtime political journalist Keith Baldrey thought it necessary to upstage the Premier and tonight leak out that Site C will go ahead. Professional journalists need to do better than that. So the project is going ahead. But without details in the ‘scoop’ (as to why the go-ahead decision was made), there is really no benefit to the public to give a half-day’s advance notice. Ethics in journalism still matter.

A month ago, when pressed about his decision whether to proceed with or stop the Site C hydroelectric project, Premier Horgan replied that it is a $12 billion dollar project and that if it proceeds it will affect contracts, indigenous interests in the area, and individuals.

If the project is cancelled, the cost would be about $4 billion (over $2 billion already spent or committed, plus another $1.8 billion to remediate the site).

“Site C is over budget and off schedule,” said Premier Horgan, adding it’s something he’s been saying “for some time”. He reiterated having run on a platform of affordability for British Columbians. He said it was “bad policy making from the start” for former Premier Clark to try to “get the project past the point of no return”.

BC Premier John Horgan

Having information made public about Site C decision-making is something Horgan promised during the 2017 election campaign, and he seemed pleased that the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) report was made available to the public last month.

At present, Horgan says there is an oversupply of electricity in the North American market. He says the estimates by BC Hydro for future electricity demand are wrong. However, the jury may be out on that, given the increase in use of electric cars and charging massive batteries (in size and/or number) for other uses in the modern digital age. While alternative energy sources are moving forward in various ways, there is no way of telling whether natural gas, biomass heat capture, wind power and other methods will be far enough along should a growing population require more electricity in five to 10 years time.

“It’s not an easy choice or decision. I will be grappling with it for the next couple of weeks,” Horgan said on November 8. And now the time for announcement of his decision has arrived (Monday December 11).

Read the West Shore Voice News editorial about the impact of the new BC NDP government on the lives of British Columbians, page 2 in the December 8, 2017 issue of West Shore Voice News.


 

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir [2010] in Vancouver

Friday, December 8 ~ BC. Tipping a hat to Canadian winter sport, this week the BC Government announced a contribution of $110,000 to support the upcoming national skating championships by helping bring some of the biggest names in Canadian figure skating to Vancouver.

Taking place at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre at the University of British Columbia January 8 – 14, 2018, the week will also be high-profile exposure for Vancouver and Canada’s west coast and a winter tourism draw for people from all over BC (tickets $19.99/day Jan 8-11 up to $40-75 for final days; $10 at the gate to watch junior and senior practices).

The event is an Olympic-qualifier for Canada’s team at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea. The championships will feature about 250 skaters, competing in the men, women, and pair ice dance disciplines. About 8,000 spectators are expected to attend, with thousands more throughout Canada watching via CTV’s live broadcast.

The anticipated economic activity generated by the competition is approximately $6 million, said a Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture news release on December 8.


Tuesday, December 5 ~ BC.  Today December 5, the Province of BC has released a number of key decisions on cannabis regulation in BC. 

The following policy decisions were shaped by feedback provided by individuals and municipalities who participated in the engagement (48,951 British Columbians, and 141 local and Indigenous governments):

  • Minimum age – British Columbia will set the minimum age to possess, purchase and consume cannabis at 19 years old. A minimum age of 19 is consistent with BC’s minimum age for alcohol and tobacco and with the age of majority in BC.
  • Wholesale distribution of cannabis – Like other provinces, BC will have a government-run wholesale distribution model. The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will be the wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis in BC.
  • Retail of cannabis – The Province anticipates establishing a retail model that includes both public and private retail opportunities and will share details regarding the model in early 2018.

Legalization of non-medical cannabis in Canada is anticipated to start July 1, 2018 following the passage of federal legislation in the new year.

“Looking at the responses received, it’s clear that British Columbians support the priorities of protecting young people, health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping roads safe, which will guide the Province in developing BC’s regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis,” said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

From September 25 to November 1 of this  year, the public and stakeholders were asked to share their input and expertise on a range of issues related to the regulation of non-medical cannabis in BC, including minimum age, personal possession, public consumption, drug-impaired driving, personal cultivation, wholesale distribution and retail models. Most of the public input was received online.

The policy decisions announced today also reflect the feedback received from the local government members of the Joint Provincial-Local Government Committee on Cannabis Regulation (JCCR) and are endorsed by the Union of BC Municipalities executive.

“We thank all British Columbians who provided their input during the important public and stakeholder engagement process,” said Farnworth.

“We will continue to consider your opinions as we further develop policy and legislation that is in the best interests of this province, ensuring a made-in-BC approach to the legalization of non-medical cannabis that will keep our roads and communities safe, protect young people, and promote public health and safety.”

The provincial government says it “still has a number of key decisions to make as it prepares for the legalization of cannabis”. These decisions “will be informed by the feedback collected through the public and stakeholder engagement” but there will be further consultation with local and Indigenous governments and other key stakeholders.

Link: Cannabis Regulation in B.C.: What We Heard report on public and stakeholder engagement: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/BCcannabisregulation/


 

Premier John Horgan congratulates Langford Mayor Stew Young on 25 years of service. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Monday, December 4 ~ LANGFORD. After hosting his own open house at his constituency office this evening, BC Premier John Horgan dropped into the holiday season open house at Langford council chambers.

Saying he moved to Langford 25 years ago, Horgan says Langford has been “transformative” for him: “I raised my family here, became a member of legislature here, and became the premier here.”

As part of recognizing 25 years of municipal service by Mayor Stew Young and Councillors Denise Blackwell and Winnie Sifert, the premier called Langford’s success “an extraordinary accomplishment”.

“it’s absolutely unparalleled to have that much dedication and commitment to your community,” said Horgan about Langford’s mayor and council. He said that Langford has demonstrated “the things that you can do when you work together and have a vision, and have a community this inclusive.”

Horgan noted Langford’s amenities for young families such as good schools, good sports, great arenas, the YMCA, and libraries. “It just keeps getting better, month after month, year after year. It’s been an extraordinary 25 years in Langford, I have a great deal of gratitude for you,” said Horgan to Mayor Young, Langford council, and city staff.

“People are coming and bringing families here, starting businesses here, and creating opportunities for themselves. It is all because of the work that you do in this room,” Horgan said.

Premier John Horgan attends 25-year recognition ceremony at Langford Council, Dec 4, 2017 (From left): Councillor Denise Blackwell, Premier Horgan, Councillor Winnie Sifert, Mayor Stew Young. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Mayor Young thanked the Premier, and also acknowledged Langford’s team effort. “We’ve got a lot of great workers in the City of Langford. Everybody’s excited to apply and get a job in Langford.” People see leadership here: “Everybody sees how well we work together with our council and our staff. We’re always able to do great things in Langford when we all work together like that,” said Stew Young, noting how his city is known for an open door policy to business.

“It’s one of the things our council prides itself on. Helping everybody who’s in business,” said Young, noting how using the services of local businesses is key. “The business community comes to our community.”

Noting his 25 years as Mayor, Stew Young said he is happy and proud to have a team behind him that works so hard to improve the community where he was born and grew up.

Guests this evening included local developers, to whom Horgan gave a nod: in a recent speech to the Urban Development Institute in Vancouver Horgan had highlighted how well things get done to speed along with building permits and the growth of the community.


Friday, December 1 ~ VICTORIA.  November 2017 saw the highest number of property sales of any November in the Greater Victoria area since 1996 — 671 in total (12% more than sold last November). The number of active listings for sale dropped 7.4% in one month from October to November.

The Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) predicted last month that buyers might accelerate their purchase timeline to buy a home ahead of ‘stress test’ rules set for January 2018.  Overall in Greater Victoria there were 307 single family home sales in November selling at a raw average price of $902,985.

It should be understood that VREB’s data-adjusted HPI figures show $693,200, which means people are paying far above what most people hear as the selling price.

In the west shore, the real price of a house in Langford last month was $696,933 (61 sales) while the HPI was given as $593,800. In Colwood there were 15 sales averaging out at $725,290 while the HPI was $658,100. In Sooke there were 18 house sales in November at a real average sale price of $509,418 while the HPI was $483,300.

So that’s almost a million dollars in overall Greater Victoria for a house and over half a million in Sooke where housing is considered to be affordable.

Condo sales rolled in like this: 219 in Greater Victoria averaging $437,822; Langford 26  sales averaging  $330,298; Colwood 5 sales averaging $396,900; and one sale in Sooke at $229,000. All stats: www.vreb.org


BC Premier John Horgan

Thursday, November 30 ~ BC.  Premier John Horgan told media today that he considers the Fall Session of the legislature to have been a success. He itemized that his minority government has passed a number of key bills and that they worked on a number of initiatives that were laid out in the election platform.

He jumped right into how a 4-year mandate to achieve “all of the results” will be helpful to “working for people and delivering the services that they depend on”.

“Elimination of big money will be transformational,” he said, not just at the provincial level but municipal as well.

Premier Horgan is keen about the public engagement about the upcoming electoral reform referendum as available online at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/howwevote/ . The wording of the referendum question will be announced in the new year after input from public engagement has been reviewed, said Horgan.

About the referendum question that ends up on the ballot: “I want it to be as clear as possible, and I want the public to make this choice.” Horgan said that Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said ‘just do it’. “But I think that’s not the right way to proceed in the 21st century. We want to engage with people and ask them how they want us to proceed. I want it (a winning referendum result) to be 50+1 and that the public makes the choice,” Premier Horgan said today.

With a bit of retrospection, Horgan said that the period between the May 2017 election campaign and the swearing-in that was held mid-July will be seen as a “most heightened period in political history, with people “suddenly interested in what happened here … the role of the speaker and the role of the Lieutenant Governor in our democracy.”

He called the first minority government in 50 years in BC a “unique opportunity… where parties are working together to make life better for citizens in this great province”.


 

BC Premier John Horgan

Thursday, November 30 ~ BC.  Today in a media session from the BC Legislature, Premier John Horgan defended his position on opposing increased tanker traffic through BC waters, and vowed to maintain that position for the sake of BC’s economy and environment. “I have a great deal of respect for Premier Rachel Notley and the progressive work she’s doing as leader of that province, but my response is to stand firm for the interests of our province,” Horgan said about Alberta’s premier who today continued her pitch to expand pipelines that would bring more crude oil to the coast.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

Earlier this week, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley had called on the federal government to step up its efforts to support the project. Today November 30, Notley said while speaking in Vancouver to BC business leaders about the future of energy in Canada and local pipeline projects, that she was pleased with the federal government support the National Energy Board process to resolve permit delays.

“I hope (the federal government) will continue to embrace their role as a key player in promoting what is, in my view, a national project,” Notley said. She noted that several years ago, 44,000 British Columbians earned $2 billion in income by working in Alberta. But today BC Premier Horgan said his government’s opposition to pipeline expansion remains in the interest of economic and environmental benefits to BC.


 

Thursday, November 30 ~ BC. HORGAN ON HOUSING. “Housing is the number one issue on my desk right now,” said Premier John Horgan today, though last week his top concern was the decision he is soon to make about whether the Site C hydroelectric project continues or gets cancelled. For housing , the Premier said that his government will have “a comprehensive plan in February”.

He itemized the need for more 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom units “to allow families to grow and maintain a connection to community”. On the demand side, he indicated that his government will aim to “remove speculation in the market”.


Osborn Pond at Hole #15 at the Bear Mountain Golf Course [West Shore Voice News photo – Nov 29/17]

Wednesday, November 29 ~ LANGFORD. As of 11 am this morning November 29, there are more 5,000 fish in the pond at Hole #15 at Bear Mountain Valley Golf Course.

On this cool Wednesday up at Bear Mountain about 5,000 coho parr were released into Osborn Pond at Hole #15. Skies were grey but the rain held off.

The morning activity was the 6th annual coho release into the ecofriendly habitat. The juvenile salmon will stay and feed in the pond for several months before heading out through Millstream Creek to Esquimalt Harbour and out to the open ocean in the Juan de Fuca Strait. Coho live half their lives in fresh water, and half in the saltwater of the ocean.

Juvenile coho released into Osborn Pond [West Shore Voice News – Nov 29/17]

About 1,400 of the original batch will make it to the ocean for a long swim to Haida Gwaii and then return, arriving back in Millstream Creek about 18 months from now. They will be about 2.5 feet long at that point, coming back to spawn, said Peter McCully, technical advisor, Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association.

The fish each have one of their fins clipped, as a way for identifying them upon their return. It’s an unused adipose fin that is clipped a bit, not a fin that is required for the action of swimming. About 700 to 800 released fish are identified upon return. They don’t make it as far back as Osborn Pond, but for the time being get only as far as some small ponds near Atkins Road. Presently a culvert perched high above the stream presents too much of a jump even for powerful salmon.

Gr 3 & 4 students from Lakewood Elementary learned about fish and watched the release [West Shore Voice News – Nov 29/17]

There is now a plan to build some fish ladders (concrete ‘steps’) for the returning fish as a way of enabling their jump into the culvert. The hatchery needs about $205,000 more toward a total goal of $245,000 (an amount that will be matched by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans). So far, large donations have been contributed by the City of Langford and Ecoasis Developments, and the Peninsula Streams Society is doing more fundraising.

The fish were transported out to the pond today in a large container, then directed into the pond through a large plastic hose. It took barely a minute for all the fish to arrive in the pond. Well, except for a handful of stragglers that at the end were dumped into their new habitat from a bucket.

A class of Grade 3 & 4 students from Lakewood Elementary with their teacher Sherri Fawcett were keen observers, gathered on the soggy grass. Between arriving pondside in a fleet of golf carts, watching the small fish being hosed into the pond, and enjoying hot chocolate and cookies, the kids had an exciting and probably quite memorable experience.

The event is sponsored each year by Ecoasis Developments which owns Bear Mountain Resort. Ecoasis Chief Financial Officer David Clark was in attendance, as well as Bear Mountain staff, several volunteers from Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association, and media.

Young coho assisted from net to pail [West Shore Voice News – Nov 29/17]

Turning Osborn Pond into a nursery for these parr is an integral part of a larger conservation initiative to strengthen the numbers of coho, chum and chinook salmon in the waters off the south-easterly tip of Vancouver Island. McCully says it’s quite significant that this environmental initiative is occuring through mostly an urbanized area.

The parr weight about 8 to 10 grams. The eggs were harvested last November and volunteers have been overseeing their rearing.

The hatchery has over 90 active volunteers. “It’s a model of how public involvement in wildlife conservation and preservation can provide environmental rewards without costing the taxpayers large sums of money,” explains McCully. He says that recent survival rates for South Vancouver Island streams are as low as one-half of 1%. “Giving these young fish a fighting start is extremely important”.

Improved salmon stocks will support food fishery for First Nations communities, the sport fishing industry, and local and charter fishing operations. Prior to the introduction of parr to Osborn Pond, there were no salmon in Millstream Creek.


Small earthquake felt just after 7 pm on Monday November 27, 2017 in Langford, BC.

Monday, November 27 ~ LANGFORD. There was a quake this evening in the west shore, that’s a fact. How strong it was or location are variably reported.

Natural Resource Canada (NRC) reported a 2.0 Magnitude quake as occuring at 7:02:50 PST at a depth of 10 km.

The location of 48.51 N and 123.6 West of the November 27 quake was reported by some media as NE of Sooke, which puts the actual location in Langford.

The US Geological Service called it a 2.4 Magnitude quake “between Langford and Sooke” at a depth of 24.2 km.

By all measure it was a small quake, with damage neither reported nor expected, says NRC.

It was enough of a shakeup that social media was active with people’s reports of feeling a quake.

And it was felt in Colwood. During the City of Colwood council meeting Mayor Carol Hamilton paused to inform the room that a 1.9 quake had occurred in Langford “so that was an earthquake we all felt (as the meeting started)”.


Friday November 24 ~ LANGFORD.  A Shift into Winter information booth about winter driving safety will be at the Victoria Royals game in Victoria this evening, 6 to 10 pm. It’s an opportunity presented by Mainroad South Island to share road safety information with the public.

The main depot for Mainroad South Island is in Langford, conveniently located as a large facility on the new West Shore Parkway near Hwy 1.

Today Mainroad South Island manager Rick Gill and Operations Manager Leon Bohmer spoke to media about their preparations for the winter season. Weather is expected to be about the same as last winter, including snowfall and icy road conditions.

“Safety of the travelling public is of utmost importance,” said Rick Gill, manager, Mainroad South Island. “It’s a challenge when winter comes. But it does snow in this region. So we try to educate the public about safe winter driving,” said Gill.

By de-icing roads with brine ahead of expected snowfall, Mainroad South Island hopes to get ahead of any major road condition problems this winter.

Look for a full article coming up in the November 24th print/PDF issue of West Shore Voice News (being posted this weekend on this website ). | More about winter driving: www.shiftintowinter.ca

Photos (from top):
>> Snow plough in winter storm [Mainroad South Island]
>> Mainroad South Island Operations Manager Leon Bohmer (left) and Manager Rick Gill, with the newest of four 4-ton sander trucks, at their main facility in Langford [West Shore Voice News photo, Nov 24/17]
>> Salt can be loaded up into trucks on short notice, from a ready supply on hand at the West Shore Parkway location [West Shore Voice News photo, Nov 24/17]


Highway 14 heading west to Sooke [West Shore Voice News photo, Summer 2017]

Friday, November 24 ~ SOOKE. When it comes to hot topics around Sooke, one of the most heated is Highway 14 (Sooke Road).

So it was a bit surprising to hear not too many new ideas or any momentum for action during the Transition Sooke evening presentation on Monday November 20.

Called “Rethinking Traffic as Usual”, the presentation by guest speaker Eric Doherty to about 40 Sooke residents gathered in the second-floor library at Edward Milne Community School was mainly a pitch for more bus transit on the provincial highway.

The same old arguments about more roads or further road expansion leading to more congestion somewhat fell on deaf ears.

Read the full article on the SOOKE breaking news page


Alliance of World Scientists

Wednesday, November 22 ~ VICTORIA. BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver today read to the BC Legislature a warning from a letter signed by from 15,364 scientists in 184 countries.

The letter, published last week by the Alliance of World Scientists entitled World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: a second notice warns world leaders that there needs to be change in order to save the earth.

The full letter is posted here http://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/ and scientists from any scientific discipline (e.g. ecology, medicine, economics, etc.), are invited to endorse the letter.

“As leaders, we have a responsibility to younger generations to ensure that our actions today do not leave them worse off than we are,” said Weaver.

Weaver said he was proud to deliver the scientists’ message to the BC legislature “so that we may be reminded of this responsibility and take urgent action to address climate change”. Weaver continued: “BC has a history of leadership in climate action. I am proud that our Agreement with the BC NDP has once again moved us in this direction, but there remains much work to be done.”

“BC has a highly educated workforce, abundant natural resources and is one of the most beautiful places in the world to live. If we have the courage to champion a bold vision, we can ensure that BC is a leader not only in climate action, but also in the low-carbon economy that is emerging as world leaders step up to reduce emissions.”

BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver at UBCM [UBCM photo, Sept 2017]

The letter states that in order “to prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual… soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.”

The warning comes 25 years after Dr. Henry Kendall, a Nobel Laureate and former Chairperson of the Union of Concerned Scientists, organized a similar statement signed by 1,500 scientists in 1992.

Weaver is a renowned climate scientist who prior to his election to the BC Legislature in 2013 served as Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria.

Weaver was a Lead Author on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s scientific assessments and has authored or coauthored over 200 peer-reviewed, scientific papers and was the Chief Editor of the Journal of Climate from 2005-2009.


Tuesday, November 21 ~ VICTORIA. BC Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov Jay Inslee have issued the following statement after their first official meeting and the governor’s address to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia:

“Today, we reaffirmed our commitment to work closely together and strengthen the enduring and unique partnership between British Columbia and Washington state.

“We recognize our shared responsibility to protect the environment, grow our economies, find new opportunities to expand our flourishing tech and innovation corridor, and create good jobs on both sides of the border.

“Our governments remain committed to joint action and leadership in the fight against climate change, and in the pursuit of strong, sustainable economic development that works for the people of Washington and British Columbia.”


BC Premier John Horgan

Friday, November 17 ~ LANGFORD/SOOKE.  BC Premier John Horgan — MLA for the Langford-Juan de Fuca area through which Highway 14 (Hwy14/Sooke Road) runs, has told Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) staff to go back to the drawing board.

Horgan has recently reviewed a long-awaited report intended to improve driving and safety conditions on the winding, through-the-hills provincial highway that connects Sooke and westerly beyond to the rest of Greater Victoria. The Premier has asked for more details and options, to work harder on finding a solution, it was learned from government officials on November 17.

The first draft apparently has some “good projects” within it, but “not sufficient scale that the MLA wants”. While this delays the timeline for seeing improvements on Hwy 14, it will likely come as good news to Sooke residents, commuters, and the regional tourism industry because it means the Premier (who is directly familiar with details of the road) is watching out for his constituents and the region, toward a better result. It also makes sense to use taxpayers’ dollars wisely, and if the improvements will leave some things undone, then it’s prudent to further develop some meaningful improvements.

Highway 14 heading west to Sooke [West Shore Voice News photo, Summer 2017]

Apart from a short 4-lane stretch from the West Shore Parkway intersection west toward Sooke, Hwy 14 (Sooke Road) is single-lane. Until a person has driven it many times, for various reasons including road line (some tight angles), sight lines (especially with headlights from oncoming night traffic), lack of lighting and no opportunity for passing, the road presents a challenging drive. Even for seasoned drivers of the Sooke Road, at night and/or in inclement weather, it’s still a drive that could be considered difficult and risky.

Premier Horgan has asked senior officials to engage in a very focussed consultative process with an informal regional group of business people (that sometimes refers to itself as the Sooke Economic Development Commission) who focus on Hwy 14 issues and also Sooke Mayor Maja Tait.

District of Sooke Mayor Maja Tait addressed UBCM delegates in Vancouver (Sept 2017) ~ Photo credit: UBCM

Mayor Tait was been awaiting the transportation report along with everyone else. Today she said: “Premier Horgan as our MLA is well aware of needed improvements to Hwy 14, and while MOTI staff have worked to have the draft completed, I’m grateful that our MLA  and Premier is taking the time to ensure the study fully captures the necessary improvements for the safety of our residents and visitors.”

City of Langford Mayor Stew Young [West Shore Voice News photo]

Langford Mayor Stew Young sees opening up the Sooke region as a benefit to regional economic development. Regarding the now further delay of the MOTI plan for improving Hwy 14, Mayor Young said today: “I am hopeful the provincial government will keep the solution to Hwy 14 and the E&N corridor into Victoria as high priorities”. “I will be reaching out to Transportation Minister Trevena to see what opportunities we have to find a solution for Westshore and Sooke residents,” he said.

In recent years some improvements have included wider shoulders including bike lanes in some stretches, as well as the roundabout in Sooke town centre. Otherwise, there remain several sections that obviously require left-turn lanes for improved safety (such as at 17 Mile House, and at Manzer Rd) and improved lighting all along the highway — Sooke to Langford — that would produce immense improvements in safe use of the road for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

And here’s what MOTI had to say about their rejected report today: “BC is working hard to build roads and highways that support growing communities and help encourage economic development across the province. For Hwy 14, we want to make the corridor between Langford and Sooke as safe and as accessible as possible – not just for people in cars, but for people who take transit and people who bike and walk.”

The ministry also says that it focused the corridor study on safety upgrades “because people who frequently travel the route told us they were concerned about reliability and wanted to see it closed less frequently.”  Apparently the study also looked at ways to promote greater transit use, and how to encourage more cycling over the short and medium timeframe. “The initial findings identify several safety and transit improvements that could be implemented over the next year or two in addition to the work that is already underway,” said a statement by MOTI.

New lines were painted on Hwy 14 in summer 2015 [West Shore Voice News photo]

And now they have heard from Premier Horgan that the review “doesn’t go far enough to improve mobility along this corridor and to meet the demands of the increasing population, as more and more people make their homes and establish their businesses in the Sooke area.” It’s clear that authors of the report either don’t drive Hwy 14 themselves or did not consult with Sooke-area businesses, community leaders or daily commuters who could have identified very specific needs.

“The ministry is going to take the report a step further, looking at ways to make travel along this route more reliable and to increase mobility, such as adding future passing lanes and potential short road re-alignments to straighten out some of the curves,” said MOTI officials on November 17.

“We’re going to expand the study to go all the way to Port Renfrew and we’re going to hear from stakeholders in the region to get their ideas for long term improvements on this corridor.”  MOTI concluded: “This government cares about building strong, connected communities and is committed to solving the broader transportation challenges and needs in the South Island region.”

On Monday, November 20 a presentation about Hwy 14 and broader transportation issues will be hosted by Transition Sooke at Edward Milne Community School, 6218 Sooke Rd, at 7 pm. The event is open to the community and is expected to be well-attended.

This article first published in the November 17, 2017 issue of West Shore Voice News.


Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre under construction in Langford [Photo: West Shore Voice News ~ Nov 2017]

Tuesday, November 14 ~ LANGFORD. Rugby Canada is making another shift to Langford which includes not only the new Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre (construction near completion) but an internal restructuring of the organization.

As announced yesterday by Rugby Canada, a restructuring within the burgeoning National Sport Federation will be implemented “to drive operational excellence”.

The restructuring announced today allows the organization to align and focus its resources with its evolving high performance objectives and expanded National Team operations in Langford, along with the opening of the Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre at 3019 Glen Lake Road in early 2018. The cost of the joint project of the Government of Canada, City of Langford, and Rugby Canada is $7.84 million.

As part of the restructuring, several departments will relocate to Langford over the next three to six months from the organization’s corporate office in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Rugby Canada’s Finance, Marketing and Communications, General Operations and Governance departments will relocate to the Federation’s existing Centre of Excellence facility at 3024 Glen Lake Road.

The Al Charron Rugby Canada National Training Centre price tag is $7.84 million.

“This is a good organizational change from the top down,” says Langford Mayor Stew Young. “It is good for rugby’s advancement on the world stage and good for the athletes. Most of the teams Canada competes against have made changes and are showing results,” he said this week. “Centrally focusing on the front office is good for rugby in Langford. We are are strong partner and supporter of Rugby Canada and look forward to a long committed relationship with rugby players and staff.”

Mayor Young is looking forward to the grand opening of the Al Charon Centre for excellence which he says “will be a huge benefit for the Canadian men’s and women’s teams and give them the extra advantage while playing for Canada on the world stage.”

The Rugby Department within Rugby Canada has been led by Jim Dixon for the past two and a half years. “On behalf of the Canadian Rugby community and everyone at Rugby Canada, I would like to thank Jim for his commitment to the organization, our National Teams and Development programs. We wish Jim every success in the future,” said Allen Vansen, CEO, Rugby Canada.

Rugby Canada office on Glen Lake Road in Langford [West Shore Voice News photo – Nov 2017]

Positions being established in Langford by the organization that has grown rapidly over the last five years are: Chief Operating Officer, Director of Communications and Marketing, Director of Finance, and finance coordinators.  Myles Spencer, current Chief Operating Officer, Linh Nguyen current Chief Financial Officer, and Carlos Ferreira, current Director of Marketing and Communications, along with the existing finance staff, will remain with Rugby Canada for the coming months as these new positions are recruited for and filled by new staff based in Langford.

An external party with relevant expertise in the Canadian sport system was called in to help assess and guide the restructuring toward “increased synergies in the daily operations of the staff and permit a downsizing of Rugby Canada’s office requirements in Richmond Hill for efficiencies”. Rugby Canada’s Board of Directors says it fully supports and endorses this new organizational change. It is absolutely necessary,” said Tim Powers, Chair of the Rugby Canada Board of Directors. “We would also like to thank Jim, Myles, Linh, Carlos, Nina, Audrey and Cindy for their unwavering commitment to our sport.”

“This marks the beginning of a new era for Rugby Canada, as one of Canada’s fastest growing sports,” added Vansen. “While always difficult to reach these tough decisions, this is the best path forward to reach our organization’s performance and growth objectives. These changes will help Rugby Canada build a world class organizational culture and enhance the performance of our Sport development and National Team programs, today and into the future.”


 

Screenshot: Governor General Julie Payette at the 9th annual Canadian Science Policy Convention in Ottawa on November 1, 2017

Sunday, November 12 ~ NATIONAL. Working hard toward the open-minded view. INSIGHT-EDITORIAL by Mary P Brooke, West Shore Voice News

Canada is fast gaining an international reputation for advancing by leaps and bounds in various social areas, like flinging open the doors to immigration, working fast toward legalization of cannabis by next summer, and labouring toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples in various areas of concern. Zero tolerance for sexual harassment and bullying have become, finally, pretty much mainstream. Remembrance Day this weekend should remind all of us how much sacrifice has been made over the last century to uphold all manner of freedom and personal dignity in our country.

So in the context of this fast-action swirl of progressive social movement in this country, it was odd — and made national headlines — that Canada’s new Governor General took a swipe at ‘believers’. Religious or not, most people realize this is a country based on a founding faith and where all faiths are respected, or at least the freedom to hold beliefs that might be different from yours or mine.

In a speech at the 9th annual Canadian Science Policy Convention in Ottawa on November 1, Governor General Julie Payette mocked with a wide brush the entire art and science of astrological interpretation and calculation. While astrology is not exactly a belief-system, it has been shown to be an effective tool for self-awareness and understanding. The math to calculate planetary transits isn’t easy … before the advent of modern computing the charting was done by hand. Some world-class astrologers such as the industrious Neil F. Michelsen (organizer of the modern ephemeris) and the uniquely brilliant Jim Lewis (inventor of astrocartography) in the late 1970s and early 1980s generated entire volumes of analysis based on math done with calculators and good ol’ brain cells.

There was a time, long long ago, when the stirrings of modern science and medicine were mocked. Germs we can’t see? Nonsense! Today’s accurate science is essential and should rightly guide the development of technological civilized nations. But we should remember that over time many scientific ‘truths’ have been debunked, followed by further advancement. Meanwhile, the evidence of one’s life purpose can be examined through competent natal astrological analysis based on one’s geographical entry point into time and space on earth (i.e. birth), pointing to congruence for the individual within their social framework.

Years ago it was actually a mainstream university administrator in my world (not a hippie with sun signs and moons pasted up around the room) who pointed out the value of a system of personal insights that accepts a myriad ways of being ‘right’ and whole. Today’s mental health movement that is based dangerously on models that lead to labeling and medication could well take a page from that book to recognize that not all pegs fit into the same holes. [Footnote: there is value in utilizing therapeutic levels of nutritional supplementation as an approach to managing mental health, rather than by rote reverting to drugs and psychotherapy. ‘We are what we eat’, entirely scientifically proven – cellular microbiology at work. Canadian founder of that research and clinical application: Dr Abram Hoffer.]

Youth are stressed by frantically working hard to ‘fit’ and find a place in the big scheme of things (that’s always been the challenge of approaching adulthood but it’s incredibly more complex in a digital, global, hyper-social era). It takes a constellation of personalities to create the universe of humanity, and while our culture gives lip-service to diversity, it’s still tough for those who don’t find a ready niche.

It’s a fool’s path to wake up in the morning and guide one’s every move of the day based on sun-sign astrology. But utilizing deeper astrological principles as a tool for the continual work of personal self-actualization (e.g. providing direction for choices in lifestyle and career), family dynamics (noting the insightful work of international depth astrologer and author Erin Sullivan), and sociocultural examination (e.g. all baby boomers were born with transformational Pluto in fiery self-focused Leo) is a principled choice that flies neither in the face of science nor religion. Understanding of self and society, by whatever tool or system, is clarity worth achieving.

With her one fell-swoop mocking astrology, Payette gave Canadians a glimpse of an old-school intellectual arrogance that does not fit within Canada’s newfound bent for exploring with an open mind all things ‘wonderful and new’.


 

BC Premier John Horgan placed a wreath at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Langford, November 11, 2017 [Photo by Mary P Brooke – West Shore Voice News]

Saturday, November 11 ~ LANGFORD.  BC Premier John Horgan (MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca) laid a wreath and made some brief remarks at the podium during the Remembrance Day ceremony in Langford today. In total, 62 wreaths were laid.

VIPs arrived in a parade. At Veteran Memorial Park, about 1,000 people were gathered under threat of rain, standing or seated in some bleachers in the cold for the one-hour event.

Service personnel in uniform stood in formation for the entire hour. Music by the Westshore Community Concert Band, Gordon United Church Choir and Westshore Girl Guides.

Roads were closed in central Langford, including by large trucks positioned horizontally across roads. Helicopters and airplanes flew overhead at various points. On-the-ground security was present but not overtly obvious.

Four mayors from the west shore area laid wreaths immediately after Premier Horgan: Langford Mayor Stew Young, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns and Highlands Mayor Ken Williams.


 

Saturday, November 11. To see the Remembrance Day messages from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, BC Premier John Horgan, and BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, see the November 10, 2017 Remembrance Day issue of West Shore Voice News.


 

Streets around Veterans Memorial Park will be closed 10:30 am to 12 noon on November 11.

Friday, November 10 ~ LANGFORD.  West Shore RCMP have issued a traffic advisory for some traffic disruptions during the course of Remembrance Day ceremonies on Saturday, November 11 in Langford. There will be road closures to vehicle traffic for the duration, from 10:30 to 12 noon.

Peatt Rd / Station Ave

Veterans Memorial Pkwy / Station Ave

Goldstream Ave / Veterans Memorial Pkwy

Goldstream Ave / Aldwyn Rd

Aldwyn Rd / Fairway Ave

Veterans Memorial Pkwy / Hagel Rd / Meaford Ave

West Shore RCMP encourages everyone to come down and take part in the Remembrance Day Ceremonies as we say thank you and give a thought to the sacrifice made by the Men and Women of the Canadian Armed Forces, in conflicts both past and present.


Children at the Sooke Cenotaph after the Remembrance Day ceremony (2013). Photo: West Shore Voice News

Friday, November 10 ~ BC. Premier John Horgan released the following statement in honour of Remembrance Day tomorrow.

“On Remembrance Day, people around British Columbia honour veterans, armed forces members, merchant marines and families who have sacrificed in service of our country.

“For many of us, it’s impossible to imagine the courage it takes to put on a uniform and go into harm’s way. Yet for generations, Canadians have bravely risked their lives to protect ours.

“Today, in moments of silence all around the province, we pay tribute to loved ones lost, and to those who have returned with injuries, both visible and invisible.

“We cannot forget the tragedies of war, and we must all work together to build a more peaceful world. Lest we forget.”


Mayor of Sidney Steve Price is the new CRD chair, with View Royal Mayor David Screech as Vice-Chair.

Wednesday, November 8 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. New chairs have been announced today for the Capital Regional District (CRD) and Capital Regional Hospital District (CRHD) Board of Directors. The two Boards elect a Chair and Vice Chair each November.

Heading into 2018, CRD says in a news release that their organization’s focus will be on enabling sustainable growth, enhancing community well-being, and developing cost-effective infrastructure while continuing to provide core services throughout the region.

CRD Director and Mayor of Sidney Steve Price is the new 2018 CRD Board Chair, and began by chairing today’s board meeting. Price has been a member of the CRD Board since 2015, serving on various CRD standing committees. He was first elected to Sidney Council in 2008 before election as Mayor in 2014.

CRD Director David Screech is the new 2018 CRD Board Vice-Chair. Screech has served on the CRD Board since 2015 and on various CRD standing committees. He was first elected to View Royal Council in 2002 and then as Mayor in 2014.

Director Marianne Alto has been re-elected for a second year as the 2018 CRHD Chair. Director Alto has been a member of the CRD and CRHD Boards since 2011. She has provided leadership for the CRD’s First Nations Task Force and serves as a member of various CRD committees.

Director Susan Brice has been elected as the 2018 CRHD Vice-Chair. Director Brice has served on the CRD and CRHD Boards for several years, including as CRD Board Chair in the late 1980s.

The CRD and CRHD Boards share the same directors and officers. A corporation of the CRD, the Capital Regional Hospital District partners with Island Health and community stakeholder agencies to develop and improve healthcare facilities in the region, including replacing buildings that have reached the end of their economic and functional life.

Representation on the CRD and CRHD Boards balances varying population bases with community interests. In accordance with Provincial legislation, each municipality appoints one director for every 25,000 people and directors are elected to represent electoral areas. Voting units are assigned based on one unit for every 5,000 people.

Name, Title  Municipality or Electoral Area Role Assigned votes
Steve Price, Mayor Sidney CRD Chair 3
David Screech, Mayor View Royal CRD Vice-Chair 3
Marianne Alto, Councillor Victoria CRHD Chair 4
Susan Brice, Councillor Saanich CRHD Vice-Chair 5
Richard Atwell, Mayor Saanich Director 5
Denise Blackwell, Councillor Langford Director 4
Judy Brownoff, Councillor Saanich Director 4
Barbara Desjardins, Mayor Esquimalt Director 4
Alice Finall, Mayor North Saanich Director 3
Carol Hamilton, Mayor Colwood Director 4
Lisa Helps, Mayor Victoria Director 5
Mike Hicks, Director Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director 2
David Howe, Director Southern Gulf Islands Electoral Area Director 2
Ben Isitt, Councillor Victoria Director 5
Nils Jensen, Mayor Oak Bay Director 4
Wayne McIntyre, Director Salt Spring Island Electoral Area Director 3
Dean Murdock, Councillor Saanich Director 4
Colin Plant, Councillor Saanich Director 5
John Ranns, Mayor Metchosin Director 1
Lanny Seaton, Councillor Langford Director 4
Maja Tait, Mayor Sooke Director 3
Ken Williams, Mayor Highlands Director 1
Ryan Windsor, Mayor Central Saanich Director 4
Geoff Young, Councillor Victoria Director 4

A standing committee structure, including appointing committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs, will be announced on or before the next CRD Board meeting on December 13.

In 2017, under Chair Barb Desjardins, the CRD Board continued to make progress on the 2015-2018 CRD strategic priorities which outline the direction and priorities of the CRD Board. The corporate plan, multi-year service plans and progress reports can be found at https://www.crd.bc.ca/about/how-we-are-governed/strategic-priorities-plans


 

Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall

Wednesday, November 8 ~ VICTORIA.  A significant announcement about freezing BC Hydro rates was made today by the BC NDP government, fulfilling a key campaign promise about affordability for British Columbians.

It puts “an end to the years of spiraling electricity costs that have made life less affordable for BC homeowners and renters,” Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall announced today.

BC Hydro rates have gone up by more than 24% in the last four years, and by more than 70% since 2001. This was part of a five-year roll-out that started in 2014 under the former BC Liberal government. The steady march of increases appeared to be tone-deaf from the start as to the overall recession-recovery financial struggles of households and small businesses in BC.

Mungall says that in 2016, BC Hydro applied to the BC Utilities Commission for three years of increases, with a 3% increase planned next year, but will be pulling back its request “consistent with this administration’s commitment to a rate freeze”.

The rate freeze will provide government the time to undertake a comprehensive review of BC Hydro, it was stated in a Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources release. “That review will identify changes and cost savings to keep rates low while ensuring BC Hydro has the resources it needs to continue to provide clean, safe and reliable electricity.”

Details of the scope and process for the review will be developed once government has made a final decision on Site C, which earlier today Premier John Horgan said would take another couple of weeks.

After completing a comprehensive review of BC Hydro, any cost and revenue adjustments identified will be reflected in rates starting in April 2019, the government said. This likely gives consumers just a one-year reprieve.

The rate freeze follows government’s commitment in its September budget update to phase out the provincial sales tax on electricity for small businesses.


 

BC Premier John Horgan

Wednesday, November 8 ~ VICTORIA. BC Premier John Horgan in his weekly media session at the BC Legislature reiterated the degree of pressure he is under to decide about Site C. 

Making a decision about whether to proceed with or stop the Site C hydroelectric project is a $12 billion dollar decision, affecting contracts, indigenous interests in the area, and individuals, he explained.

If the project is cancelled, the cost would be about $4 billion (over $2 billion already spent or committed, plus another $1.8 billion to remediate the site).

When pressed by media as to what appears to be slow action on calling a by-election in Kelowna West (a seat left empty by the departing Christy Clark) Horgan used the magnitude of this decision, in part, to defend not calling the by-election this fall. His other reason is seasonal timing… too close to the Christmas holiday season, saying people wouldn’t appreciate that.

Having information made public about Site C decision-making is something Horgan promised during the 2017 election campaign, and he seemed pleased that the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) is now available to the public.

At present, Horgan says there is an oversupply of electricity in the North American market. He says the estimates by BC Hydro for future electricity demand are wrong.

“Site C is over budget and off schedule,” said Premier Horgan, adding it’s something he’s been saying “for some time”. He reiterated having run on a platform of affordability for British Columbians. He said it was “bad policy making from the start” for former Premier Clark to try to “get the project past the point of no return”.

It would be costly to shut down the project, but that must be weighed with the social and economic costs of falling short on electricity demand in the future. While alternative energy sources are moving forward in various ways, there is no way of telling whether natural gas, biomass heat capture, wind power and other methods will be far enough along should a growing population require more electricity in five to 10 years time.

“It’s not an easy choice or decision. I will be grappling with it for the next couple of weeks,” Horgan said today.


Tuesday, November 7 ~ SOOKE. Expect traffic delays on Thursday November 16 on Sooke Road (Highway 14), for some live maintenance work being done on hydro poles in 5700-block.

Single lane traffic and delays can be expected from 9:30 am to 3 pm.  This will cause backups both eastbound into Langford and westbound toward Sooke.

“We’re doing the work live,” says BC Hydro spokesperson Ted Olynyk. “We appreciate the public’s patience and the delays it may cause.” He also hopes drivers will obey the speed limits and respect the flaggers who will be on site to manage the traffic flow.

BC Hydro is doing the work live on one or more poles with 25 kV lines so that a major power outage is not required for a large part of the Sooke area. For safety reasons, this work on live wires must be done during the daytime, says Olynyk.

Sooke Road is a provincial highway (Highway 14), and is effectively the only road in and out of Sooke (population 13,000).


 

Tuesday, November 7 ~ LANGFORD. The upcoming Remembrance Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park in Langford is expected to fill the park.

The public should get there early to get a good standing spot or a spot on the bleachers, says Norm Scott, president, Langford Legion.

This year, four west shore mayors will be in attendance: Langford Mayor Stew Young, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, and Highlands Mayor Ken Williams. BC Premier John Horgan (MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca) will be attending.

The public will start arriving around 9:30 am. The event starts promptly at 11 am and lasts about 50 minutes.

An oak tree from Vimy Ridge — planted in the park a few weeks ago — will be noted during the ceremony.  On October 27 a Vimy Ridge memorial was commemorated by Langford Legion members with Langford Mayor and Council in attendance.

The Remembrance Day event in Sooke will be held at the Sooke Legion cenotaph. Representing Premier John Horgan (MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca which includes Sooke) will be Patrick Swinburnson, principal of Edward Milne Community School.

The Remembrance Day event in Esquimalt will be attended by Randall Garrison, MP (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke) and Mitzi Dean, MLA (Esquimalt-Metchosin).

All events start at 11 am.


 

Posted speed limit is 60 kph on Hwy 14 heading eastbound at the West Shore Parkway [West Shore Voice News photo – Nov 2017]

Monday, November 6 ~ WEST SHORE.  Provincial Highway 14 (Sooke Road) is getting some speed reader boards in the ‘Luxton strectch’ east of the upward winding section toward West Shore Parkway.

Speed reader boards are those electronic signs that use radar to detect the speed of an approaching vehicle and display the speed on an LED variable message display. The speed display is typically combined with a static (non-electronic) display that includes the text “Your Speed” or similar.

The posted speed on Highway 14 in that section heading westbound toward West Shore Parkway is 60 kph (or 50 kph when children are on the highway) and when heading eastbound just at West Shore Parkway and heading to the Langford town area.

Hwy 14 beyond West Shore Parkway on the way to Sooke has a 80 kph posted speed limit on the 4-lane section, reducing to 60 kph again when the road is single-lane heading to Sooke.

The intent of the Speed Reader Board is to encourage compliance with the posted speed limit by making motorists aware of their actual speed. They are intended to be used as supplements to the maximum posted speed signs to encourage compliance when transitioning to a lower posted speed, such as school zones, road construction zones, and communities located along highways.

Posted speed limit 60 kph on Sooke Road (HWy 14) heading eastbound on the curve ahead of Glenshire Rd. [West Shore Voice News photo]

Five years ago an injury collision on Hwy 14 near Glenshire Road resulted in the death of 13-year-old Langford resident AJ (Adam Jessie) Wakeling. The highway in that winding stretch between Glenshire Road and the driveway entrance to Slegg Lumber was poorly lit, it was later determined by West Shore RCMP.  The driver of a small pickup truck heading eastbound at the crest of a hill and around a sweeping curve was never charged, as the teen was wearing dark clothing and the driver was determined to have been travelling at the average speed for a dry road.

“The fatal crash five years ago on Highway 14 was a tragedy, and our hearts go out to the victim’s family and friends,” said the BC Ministry of Transportation last week. “Following the incident, Ministry staff reviewed this section of the highway as part of assisting local police with their investigation into the crash.”

MOTI continued: “Since the crash, the Ministry installed a new crosswalk and an eastbound bus stop near Slegg Lumber, and earlier this year completed a new westbound bus stop. In addition, we have ordered speed reader boards that will be installed in the Luxton area of the corridor in the coming weeks.” But still no additional lighting.

Curve in the highway, eastbound on Hwy 14 at Leledo Rd. [West Shore Voice News photo]

A corridor-wide safety study of Highway 14 between Langford and Sooke is underway and is expected to wrap up by the end of the year, says MOTI.

The Sooke Economic Development Commission (EDC) which has taken on Highway 14 issues as its key mandate toward expanded economic growth for the Sooke region, eagerly awaits the report. The group may soon have specific observations and improvement requests for various sections of the road to Sooke.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait told West Shore Voice News last week: “We continue to wait for the preliminary report, and look forward to working with the Province on continued improvements to Highway 14.”


 

National NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addressed a full house at the Victoria Convention Centre November 4, 2017 [West Shore Voice News photo]

Sunday, November 5 ~ VICTORIA. Yesterday it was pretty much a full house at the BC NDP convention in downtown Victoria, giving a rousing clamor of applause for the new leader of the national NDP party, Jagmeet Singh. Singh was elected by NDP membership to head up the party,

just over one month ago in Toronto. Since then he has gained a unique flavour popularity in the NDP camp and attracts a curious level of fascination across the country.

Bounding onto the stage at the Victoria Convention Centre on November 4, Singh was accompanied on stage for the duration of his 20-minute speech by elected members of parliament and party leaders.

He began with accolades for BC Premier John Horgan and the BC NDP for “changing the course of 16 years and bringing in an NDP government”. He commended the new BC NDP government for their comprehensive strategy to tackle poverty in BC, and for working to re-establish a Human Rights Commission. In followup to a final point about raising the corporate income tax “so that everybody pays their fair share”, Singh said to Horgan and the provincial NDP: “Thank you for showing us the way.”

Singh came right out to say that the national NDP party experienced a “pretty significant setback” in the 2015 federal election, but was upbeat about the NDP MPs holding six of seven seats on Vancouver Island.

As for his fast-track to the 2019 election campaign, he is already challenging the federal Liberals for “not implementing any strategy to fight climate change”. Singh says the NDP are opposed to the infrastructure bank set up by the Liberals, though perhaps not realizing the jobs and community growth that it supports.

Singh got two spontaneous standing ovations during his speech… once for his statement that no Canadian should have “less of a sense of self worth” because of the colour of their skin, and again with his statement of the obvious that “poverty, mental health issues and addiction are social justice problems, not a criminal problem”. As a former criminal defence lawyer, that last statement really had some punch.

It is always evident how the NDP across Canada rally together to support new stars on their team. The only chink in that armor is the differential between Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley and BC Premier John Horgan over the pipeline issues.

Singh wrapped up his articulate, in-depth yet buoyant speech with “yes we can”.


BC Premier John Horgan addressed BC NDP convention delegates Nov 4 in downtown Victoria. [CTV screenshot]

Saturday, November 4 ~ VICTORIA. The BC NDP annual convention is underway in downtown Victoria, continuing through Sunday. This morning BC Premier John Horgan made his first address to his followers as premier. This afternoon national NDP leader Jagmeet Singh will address the crowds.

In his speech to delegates this morning, Premier John Horgan said: “Guided by our values, we will do what is right for the people of BC.” Horgan generated large cheers throughout his speech, but the loudest came when he told delegates he will set his sights high and not accept second best.

After a special welcome to delegates from the BC Interior who were impacted by this past summer’s wildfires, Horgan continued: “Helping people and building community — these are BC values, and they are New Democrat values. BC is with you, and together we will help you recover. Helping people is what our government is all about. The BC Liberals left people behind. They gave tax breaks to millionaires while making families pay more. They ripped up contracts. They rolled back rights for workers. They cut vital public services. And they mismanaged BC’s crown jewels, ICBC and BC Hydro.”

Horgan re-promised the increase to a $15/hour minimum wage, and took additional pride in having created a standalone Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. “Help, hope and opportunity is what a better BC is all about,” the Premier said. “Our government is opening the doors of opportunity for people. We lifted social assistance rates by $100 a month, the first increase in 10 years. We hired thousands of teachers to give students the support they need in our classrooms. We ended the heartless bus pass claw-back for people with disabilities. We eliminated tuition fees for Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning programs, and for former kids in care who want to go to college or university.”

Getting deeper into the political, Horgan said “the BC Liberals say we haven’t acted fast enough. We’ve had 16 weeks, they had 16 years.” We are going to build hospitals, schools, transit, with BC workers to benefit BC communities.

He pledged to continue supporting traditional industries like forestry and mining, and to promote value-added and manufacturing. He says the BC NDP government will “grow the new economy and create good jobs for people as we build our province”. And in wrapping up: “Together, we will build a stronger, fairer, more just province, where no one is left behind.”

 


 

Saturday, November 4 ~ VICTORIA.  The real estate market in the Greater Victoria area is shifting rather rapidly. But the Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB) says the market is still stable. A total of 664 properties sold in Greater Victoria in October 2017. That’s 9.7% fewer than the 735 properties sold in October last year.

VREB says the longer term picture shows October sales as 17.1% above the 10-year average of 567 properties for the month of October. They conclude: “The market is still very active here in Victoria… in spite of the ongoing low inventory levels.”

For Greater Victoria overall, the actual sales average of 294 sales was $854,833 (data-adjusted HPI $690,000, down from $700,800 in July which is considered the peak month before the market began its sudden adjustment).

October in the west shore: Langford: actual sales average $761,550 for 45 sales (HPI $589,800 down from $592,300 in July). Colwood: 17 sales averaged a real average of $664,582 (HPI $646,600 down from $660,400 in July). Sooke: 27 sales produced a real sales average of $514,048 (HPI $479,900 on par with $479,100 in July). View Royal: 12 sales averaged $623,750 (HPI $707,300 up from $687,400 in July).


Friday, November 3 ~ VICTORIA.  Today through Sunday (November 3 to 5) over 1,000 New Democrats are gathering at the Victoria Conference Centre for the BC NDP’s 45th Convention.

Party Leader John Horgan will address fellow party members for the first time since becoming Premier, on Saturday morning. “We’re thrilled to be here in Premier John Horgan’s hometown,” said Raj Sihota, the Provincial Director of the BC NDP. It’s the first convention in 16 years with an NDP government in the Legislature. There will be discussion about how to grow the party to “support the good work of our government and keep building a movement for a better BC,” said Sihota in a news release.

Delegates will debate policy resolutions, participate in training and workshops and hear from guest speakers including Jagmeet Singh, newly elected federal NDP leader.

The BC NDP say they remain committed to the issues British Columbians voted for this spring: “making life more affordable, improving the services we all count on, and building a sustainable economy that works for everyone”.

There will be caucus and committee meetings, the Young New Democrat Convention, the Women’s Rights Committee Convention, and an election for Party leadership.


Friday, November 3 ~ VANCOUVER. BC is jumping deeper into the Amazon world. Today November 3, BC Premier John Horgan welcomed Amazon’s plans to double the size of its professional workforce in British Columbia.

“We’re growing a strong, sustainable economy that benefits everyone, by bringing good-paying jobs to BC and investing in training the workforce of tomorrow,” Premier Horgan said at a media announcement in downtown Vancouver this morning.

“We will build on Amazon’s plans to bring 1,000 new jobs to BC by continuing to open up access to education and skills training.” The Seattle-based company has announced plans to double its BC-based professional workforce to 2,000 by early 2020.

The announcement is unrelated to Amazon’s plans to open a second headquarters.

Amazon will be leasing a 50,000 sq ft building on Dunsmuir St in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Premier Horgan was joined by Alexandre Gagnon, Amazon’s vice-president for Canada and Mexico, announcing that the company will lease a new 4,500 sq m (50,000 sq ft) building on Dunsmuir Street.

“Tech companies employ more than 100,000 people in BC, with significant opportunities for growth,” said Jobs, Trade and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston. “Amazon’s investment contributes to an industry that creates well-paying jobs that will benefit every corner of our province.”

Jobs in tech pay 75% more than the provincial average. The BC government will help British Columbians develop the skills they need to get these high-paying jobs with more tech-related seats, co-op programs and other post-secondary and skills training opportunities.
“The message we are hearing from leaders in the tech industry is they will hire as many people as we can train,” said Parliamentary Secretary for Technology Rick Glumac. “We’re bringing down barriers for BC workers because the more we invest in people, the more companies will invest in BC.”

The provincial government says it is investing in the future of BC workers by bringing down barriers to post-secondary education and skills training. Since August 2017, government has cut the provincial student loan interest rate in half, removed tuition fees for adult basic education and English as a second language programs, and eliminated post-secondary tuition for children who grew up in government care.

BC Premier John Horgan at media conference Nov 3 [CBC photo]

Bill Tam, president and CEO of the BC Tech Association, said BC’s skilled workforce is one of the reasons tech investors are attracted to the province.

“Amazon’s decision to expand in BC is a testament to the growing recognition of our tech sector on the global stage,” Tam said. “BC continues to be a desirable destination for tech companies to locate and grow, because of our province’s vibrant tech community, our attractive investment climate and exceptional talent base.”

BC saw a 1.9% rise in the number of new technology companies in 2015, growing to over 10,000 businesses. More than $200 million is being invested over the next two years in tech and science post-secondary capital projects in British Columbia.  The GDP of BC’s tech sector expanded 2.4% in 2015, contributing $14.1 billion to BC’s overall economic output.


 

Mike Farnworth, BC Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

Thursday, November 2 ~ BC. After a final push to invite public input, the number of people filling out the BC Cannabis Regulation Engagement survey online saw about 18,000 engagements in the last of five weeks.

As of October 25 about 30,000 British Columbians had participated, and by the November 1 closing, 48,151 individuals had provided feedback on on topics about non-medicinal cannabis such as minimum age, personal possession limits, public consumption, drug-impaired driving, personal cultivation, and distribution and retail models.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General says “an unprecedented number of people shared their opinions to help shape the way non-medical cannabis will be regulated in BC”.

In five weeks (September 25 to November 1) the BC Cannabis Regulation Engagement website saw 127,952 visits, with 48,151 British Columbians filling out the feedback form. As well, through a random survey by phone, 800 opinions were received from a representative cross-section of British Columbians. Government also received over 130 written submissions from organizations including local governments, school districts, cannabis industry, advocacy groups and law enforcement.

Engagement with local governments, Indigenous governments and organizations, and stakeholders from law enforcement, health, agriculture and other sectors is ongoing. In addition, the Province and Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) have established a Joint Provincial-Local Government Committee on Cannabis Regulation made up of 12 representatives from UBCM and provincial representatives from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

The BC Government says the feedback collected through this engagement process will help ensure the provincial regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis reflects the needs and values of British Columbians, while prioritizing the protection of young people, health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping roads safe. Over the next few weeks, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General will review and analyze the feedback received and create a summary report on what was heard that will be made available to the public.

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who participated in our various engagements regarding cannabis legalization over the last five weeks. It’s now our job to do the hard work, take your feedback and perspectives and use them to develop a responsible, made-in-BC approach to regulating non-medical cannabis that maximizes public health and safety.”


Wednesday, November 1. Daylight Savings Time is coming to an end for this year. On Sunday November 5, 2017 Daylight Saving Time ends at 2:00 am. That’s the time to turn your clocks back one hour to instead be 1:00 a.m.

Sunrise and sunset will be about one hour earlier on November 5 than the day before. There will be more light in the morning.

If you forget which way to turn the clock, just remember ‘Fall Back’ (and ‘Spring Forward’, when it comes time for that in spring 2018). Of course, nowadays most clocks are within automated devices like computers, appliances and cars, and so the displayed time is programmed to change without you having to do anything.

 


 

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